One might have to think twice before settling in Niboye Sector in Kicukiro district, a suburb of Kigali city.
Residents of the area are grappling with a serious water shortage, which has also become an important factor in valuation of land in the sector.
Shalom Abayo whose family settled in Byimana cell in 2013 says that for the past month, they had water in their taps only once for two hours and flows in after midnight.
Whenever there isn’t water, they spend a minimum of Rwf2000 daily to fetch 100 liters from wells downhill.
However, such wells are always jammed with people fetching water throughout the day and night.
“Water scarcity is making us look like we are in a village settlement,”Abayo told KT Press.
However, water shortage has not only hit Niboye sector, it’s now a national problem that has pushed most homes to slash domestic activities that consume water.
Urban planning experts say that population growth and development are not proportional to the supply of water in Kigali City.
“We need long term projects, not small projects that contribute just 2000 cubic meters on water network,” said Vincent Kabalisa, in charge of water resources in Ministry of Natural Resources.
Kigali population doubled to 1.1 million inhabitants in 2012, from 650,000 some ten years earlier. The increasing population comes with new businesses that require huge demands for clean water.
“Our water networks are too old to serve a quick growing population,” Kabalisa said.
Methode Mutagungira, Director of Water and Sanitation Services in Water and Sanitation Corporation (Wasac) explained to KT Press, that the country has water production capacity of 120,000 cubic meters every day.
About 65,000 cubic meters serves 65% of the 1.1 million residents of Rwanda’s capital Kigali. To fully serve the city residents, the Water and Sanitation Corporation (Wasac) would need 110,000 cubic meters per day.
Ideally, every city dweller should consume 100 liters per day, but Kigali residents are still relying on 40 liters.
Major water treatment plants built in 1970’s including; Nzove and Kimisagara with total 50,000 cubic meters production capacity and Karenge (15,000 cubic meters) serve the capital city.
In early 2000’s Rwanda embarked on promoting investments which lead to an influx of businesses and existing ones diversified although no expansion of water production was effected.
For example, Rwanda’s brewing companies Bralirwa and Skol, either of them consume up to monthly 8000 cubic meters (approximately costing Rwf 5 million). In comparison, residents in Rubavu town consume 9000 cubic meters daily.
“Water scarcity will remain until the private sector joins the business,” said Fernand Nzamurambaho, a water consultant.
Engineer Fred Rwihunda says water demand is so high coupled with new infrastructure development. “Any new toilet that is installed in a room can consume up to 10 liters in a single flushing,” he said.
He added there are economical toilets on the market that consume only 3 liters in a single flushing although their cost could be high.
It’s very common for most neighbourhoods at the periphery of the city to experience weird pattern of water supply. Sometimes it comes in wee hours of the night for a few minutes.
Mutagungira from Water and Sanitation Corporation told KT Press that neighbourhoods at edges of the city “suffer more than others because water flow power decreases with distance, especially when upstream clients consume water irresponsibly.”
Despite the general water scarcity, some neighbourhoods think they were “cursed”, because water is a miracle ‘thing’ for them.
A neighborhood that shares a network with a hospital or a prison is likely to have water 24/7, says Mutagungira.
He adds: “You cannot afford to stop water flow at a hospital. If a disease starts from a hospital, consequences would be disastrous and Wasac would be liable.”
Million dollar projects unveiled
While presenting the districts’ performance pledges (Imihigo) for next year, Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi on August 13 said that about 40,000 cubic meters are expected to be added to the water grid.
Nzove I water plant will be upgraded and construction of new Nzove II by Carrigan, an American firm.
This will give Kigali 104,000 cubic meters by 2017.
Within two years, Kanzenze, a new water treatment plant will produce 40,000 cubic meters per day from Akagera River, by Metito an investor from United Arab Emirates.
Metito will sell to the country at $ 1.2 per cubic meter or a total $ 48,000 per day.
Considering the cost of production of one cubic meter, Rwf 470,000 ($628), the project would cost the company $ 25 million and this would be recovered within less than two years.
The most awaited project is the Mutobo water plant with 120,000 cubic meters production capacity.
“We have been struggling for the last 15 years to build it through government budget,” Amandine Umukesha, director of Water and Sanitation Development Services at WASAC told KT Press.
The government decided to bring on board private investors for the $300 million project. SinoHydro, a Chinese company has expressed interest in partnering with the government in this project.
“We are also paying a hefty bill and we have no alternative, if not to increase the cost of water,” Lucien Ruterana, director of commercial department at Wasac told KT Press.
The company generates Rwf 12 billion annually from water bills. From this, they have to pay Rwf 370 million every month for electricity needed to treat water and other overheads.
Until a stable supply of water is established, Kigali city dwellers may have to spend more sleepless nights waiting to fetch the miracle drop or skip some days without a shower.