Kenya loses up to 430,000 cubic metres (430 million litres) of water through leaks, burst pipes, theft or meter inaccuracies (so-called
non-revenue water) every year.
In monetary terms, this translates to losses of clean
water worth Sh12.2 billion, according to research
on the country’s water resources, conducted by the
Japan International Cooperation Agency ( JICA).
“Kenya loses more than 42 per cent of its drinkable
water to non-revenue water, compared to Japan
whose vigilance sees it lose only three per cent of
its water resources through (non-revenue water)
waste,” says Isaac Kimani from the Ministry of Water
Non-revenue water is potable (drinkable) water distributed by water service providers, but is lost or
wasted before reaching the consumer or intended
user, often without notice.
The lost water earns no revenue, thus affecting the
sustainability and economic viability of a country’s water resources and utilities. According to Mr. Kimani, the losses run in excess of Sh700,000 per
year from a single seepage.
This goes on as 42 per cent of Kenyans lack access
to improved potable water, while 70 per cent still
depend on unimproved sanitation solutions.
In countries with proper water management practices, including protecting the water ecosystem,
curbing wastage, treating waste water and ensuring
quality of drinking water, there is extensive, near sustainable access to potable water supply and sanitation. Such countries also have some of the lowest
levels of non-revenue water.
Lowest non-revenue water
In Kenya, Nyeri County has the lowest non-revenue water, with 18 to 22 per cent of its water losses
ascribed to leaks, theft or meter inaccuracies, but
this is still high.
“It would be ideal if we could reduce the amount
of water lost to 20 per cent or less in all counties,
since it is difficult to get to zero,” notes Masahito
Miyagawa, who is in charge of water resources and
environment at JICA.
Fewer losses would help the country make use of
most of its water resources and facilitate augmentation of existing measures to develop and sustain
water resources, such as the protection of water
Losses of 20 per cent or less would bring down cost
of water losses to Sh6 billion or less.
As populations grow, demand for water is also
growing, but water scarcity, calls for stricter measures to conserve the valuable resource and its
Ecosystem degradation is one of the leading causes
of water resource management challenges. In Embu
County, for instance, the bulk of water comes from
the Mt Kenya Escarpment, which has not been spared
by loggers and charcoal dealers.
To make matters worse, water conveyance pipes supplying water to drier neighbours like Tharaka Nithi,
are taken over midway by people using the water
for irrigation, according to Hamilton Karugendo,
the managing director of Embu Water and Sewerage
“Farming is good, but there are people who use
devious means, diverting the county’s potable water
to irrigate their farms, leaving other farmers and
the community at large without water,” says Mr
After the farmers have had their fill, the water flows
to waste, since the damaged pipes remain unrepaired. If not noticed on time, water losses are incurred and revenue is lost.
To mitigate the effects of non-revenue water, the
county is looking to invest in more water pans and
earth dams to collect storm water in the rainy season
for domestic use and for irrigation, to lessen the
pressure mounted on potable water resources.
“But even as we encourage harvesting of rainwater and storing it in earthen pans, dams and ponds,
we should not disregard the value of addressing the
challenge posed by non-revenue water,” says Mr
The Kenya Water Institute and JICA have been training water service providers on identifying locations
where water losses occur, pinpointing the problem
and instigating control measures to minimise nonrevenue water.
The training focuses on building capacity and setting
up support and reduction frameworks to ensure
better access to clean water for health, food security and energy.