Checking Sakaja and Igathe’s claims on Nairobi’s water demand

By Eunice Omollo

Kenya’s election season is approaching its decisive phase. With the 9 August polls less than a month away, the two leading candidates running to be governor of Nairobi City County came together in a widely watched debate on 11 July 2022. 

Polycarp Igathe, a corporate executive who served a brief spell as Nairobi’s deputy governor before resigning, faced off against Johnson Sakaja, the incumbent senator for Nairobi, who wishes to steer the capital city after overseeing it from the national legislature. 

Igathe represents the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition party, whose presidential candidate is Raila Odinga. Sakaja represents the United Democratic Alliance party and Kenya Kwanza coalition, for whom William Ruto is vying for president. Ruto is currently Kenya’s deputy president.

During the debate, Igathe sought to highlight the city’s water shortage. “Today we are consuming 500,000 cubic metres of water everyday in Nairobi, that is actually the level of production of water from our water sources,” he said.  

Sakaja disagreed. “Every single day, the people of Nairobi require 850 million litres of water, but get 525.6 million litres per day. You need to bridge that gap.” 

Note: A cubic metre is equal to 1,000 litres, so the two candidates are talking about the same volumes, though expressed in different units. 

Whose claims on water were correct?

The figures Sakaja quoted, of 850,000 cubic metres and 525,600 cubic metres for water demand and supply respectively, can be found in Kenyan news reports.

A 2019 press release from the capital’s water utility placed the city’s demand at “790,000 cubic metres against the installed production capacity of 525,000 cubic metres/day”. 

A March 2022 press release  by the Athi Water Works Development Agency states that “Nairobi’s water demand currently stands at 810 million litres per day against a supply of 550 million litres per day with a deficit of 260 million litres.”

A Reuters report from May 2020 cites Nahashon Muguna, the managing director of Nairobi Water, noting that the city had a demand of 810,000 cubic metres but only received 526,000 cubic metres. In 2021, Muguna told the Nation the supply was 525,600 cubic metres against a demand of 830,000 cubic metres.

While Igathe correctly estimated Nairobi’s water supply to be around 500,000 cubic metres per day, Sakaja’s figure of 525,000 cubic metres was closer to official estimates. His demand estimate of 850,000 cubic metres, while on the higher side, is close to official sources. Both candidates are broadly correct.

In the Ballpark

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