Privatizing Thirst

Life on earth would not be possible without water. An estimated 71 percent of our planet is covered by water, circulating in a beautifully engineered never ending cycle to preserve life on earth. Unfortunately, by the end of this decade, 2030,  experts say our planet will not have enough drinking water.

The demand for water is set to  transcend supply by 40 percent, leaving us with a crisis at hand by the end of the decade. 

Climate change has disrupted the natural water cycle and in turn balance of our main water sources such as rain, oceans and glaciers. It has brought about rising sea levels, melting glaciers, floods, heat waves  and even total water body migrations in some cases. 

On top of that, our needs for water continue to grow, whether it is for industrial use or food. With it, so is our population. There are more than seven billion people on our planet currently, this number is however expected to grow to 10 billion by 2050, making our water crisis ever more urgent. 

Lack of access to clean water

Currently about one in nine of the planet’s population lack access to clean, affordable water. In Kenya  18 million people do not have access to clean and safe water.

While the government is mandated to ensure the entire population has access to clean water, the limitations in resources means it has to incorporate development partners and the private sector towards this goal. 

Recently, Kenya  published the Water (Amendment) Bill, 2023 that hopes to promote private investment in the water sector through the public-private partnerships model. 

The amendments  will allow national government entities such as the Water Works Development Agencies and National Water Storage Authority  to enter into bulk water purchase agreements, in short giving private companies control over water resources, a privilege that was formerly reserved for the counties. 

This essentially means privatization of water, transfer of ownership or control of a water system from a public entity to a private one, in most cases a profit-driven corporation. 

This concept is not entirely new in Kenya, with projects such the Ruiru dam in Kiambu county and Ndakaini dam in central Kenya which  have been handed to private players.

Read Also: Climate Summit seeks Nairobi Declaration for green growth

Preserving water sources

Ruiru  dam draws out 160,000 cubic meters  of water daily  which it sells to Nairobi residents while locals in the area who do the work of preserving the water source have no access to a drop of water, and even get harassed by officers. 

As private companies try to maximize their profit, water privatization is often followed with unaffordable tariffs , which may lead to cut offs for households unable to pay, or cost cutting methods which can  jeopardize health. 

Many private companies also prioritize their distribution to wealthy areas,  meaning that those who are poorer or marginalized find it more difficult to get water than the rich and powerful.

There are also long term effects of water privatization, with water levels decreasing due to players harvesting more water than they need, in an attempt to maximize profits coupled with effects of climate change. This can even change the temperament of a region, change its economic and social activities. 

We can only  survive three days without water, it is a basic human right.

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