The promise of replenished aquifers in two Kenyan coastal cities

Themes: Climate change Groundwater Utilities WASH Water
Countries: Kenya Kenya-local

A new project, with funding from P4G and the participation of WSUP, will offer the cities of Mombasa and Malindi, in Kenya, a new and important tool to improve provision of water to their residents: Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR).

The process involves capturing excess rainwater and infiltrating it into the ground for storing, through an MAR plant. If successful, the initiative will ensure the local populations can use rain water, collected during the rainy season, then treated and kept as groundwater, during drier times of the year.

Therefore, the Replenish Coastal Cities in Kenya initiative  combines actions to improve the supply of water to low-income residents with efforts to strengthen local natural resources, through the recovery of aquifers, making the area more climate-resilient.

An increasingly alarming problem

Kenya is an example of a problem faced by many communities around the world and which has been further accelerated by climate change: affected areas experience periods of more intense rainfall, followed by longer periods of sustained drought conditions. As expected, in many regions this has put a stress on water resources.

The country’s coastal area, in particular around the city of Mombasa, experiences a shortage of 100,000 cubic meters (m3) of potable water a day. The cycle of intense rainfall followed by longer periods of drought has been combined with the growth in urban population, negatively impacting residents’ quality of life and becoming a major barrier to regional economic growth.

Residents of Mombasa currently pay from US$1.45 to US$2.00 per cubic meter of water. The unpredictability of available surface water supply, due to both seasonal changes and drought, causes the local water price to fluctuate significantly, especially when the reservoir capacities are low.

Many Mombasa and Malindi residents are also forced to buy unsafe water from informal water vendors due to the unmet demand for critical infrastructure and basic services.

The costs for the development of MAR plants are considerably lower than alternative options such as desalinisation, providing consumers with the option to buy water at an average price of  US$1.00 per cubic meter.

The image above shows how the MAR project will work in the coast of Kenya, as described by Ramboll, one of the partners involved. Credit: Ramboll

A public-private partnership solution

P4G has awarded the partnership behind the MAR Kenya project with US $100,000 in grant funding. Replenish Coastal Cities in Kenya will bring together public and private stakeholders, kick-starting developments towards the successful situating, construction and operation of a MAR plant.

In its initial stage, this partnership will conduct a feasibility study, collecting data and engaging stakeholders to quantify the project’s physical, economic and social benefits. Upon completion of the study, the partnership aims to secure funding to complete construction and start operations in Mombasa.

The Replenish Coastal Cities in Kenya brings together WSUP; P4G; Ramboll; Kilifi County Government; Malindi Water and Sewerage Co. Ltd; Kenya’s Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation; County Government of Mombasa; Mombasa Water Supply and Sanitation Co. Ltd; and Kenya’s Water Resources Authority.

Watch video: Malindi's sanitation challenges

Top image: the Kenyan city of Mombasa