Experts discuss future of water borehole drilling industry in Kenya – Webinar

In a webinar organized by Kipya Africa and sponsored by Doshi Group, participants discussed several policy related issues under the theme: “The Future of The Borehole Water Industry in Kenya.”

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Experts discuss future of borehole water industry in Kenya - Webinar

W ater borehole drillers in Kenya will soon be able to submit their application for registration with the ministry of water & sanitation and Irrigation at the comfort of their homes in a move aimed at easing the process for the borehole water industry in Kenya.

Agatha Njuguna, a hydrogeologist from Water Resources Authority (WRA) said the development of an online platform for the submission of borehole drillers records is in progress. She also said the Covid-19 pandemic has not stopped the normal registration process.

In a webinar organized by Kipya Africa and sponsored by Doshi Group, participants in the water borehole industry in Kenya discussed several policy related issues under the theme: “The Future of The Borehole Water Industry in Kenya.”

One of the issues discussed was around the cost of borehole drilling in Kenya. Drillers said the cost of drilling has sky rocketed significantly in recent years. The cost of drilling a borehole in Nairobi and its environs starts at Ksh 6,300 to 6,500 per meter.

Representing the Kenya Water Industry Association (KWIA) and JB Drilling company, Eng. Tom Armstrong noted that drillers were in a dilemma of whether to provide cheap drilling services at the expense of quality.

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“My company would rather offer services at standard rate while maintaining quality than provide cheap and substandard services to unsuspecting clients,’ he explained.

Registration and Licensing
The issue of the registration and licensing of the drillers also emerged. Eng. Armstrong argued that the period for the registration of drillers was taking longer than necessary and urged the government to quicken the process.

“Several agencies are involved in the process of registering the borehole drillers making the process even longer,” he noted.

On his part, Mr. Crispin Juma, Director, National Water Resources Management, Ministry of Water & Sanitation and Irrigation said that drillers have a part to play when it comes to registration.

“Those who come to register with the ministry must have all the prerequisites like owning drilling rig and qualified personnel,” he offered.

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But for Armstrong, the greatest challenge is convincing members to embrace a new code of conduct developed by KWIA. The code of conduct was drafted to demystify the National Code of Practice and make guidance more accessible and/or understandable for both drillers and customers.

A major concern for the industry is the unregistered agents who only rely on hired rigs and personnel to drill boreholes, making accountability difficult in case of misconduct or dispute with the clients.

The role of national government and county governments in borehole drilling in regards to responsibilities arose but Eng. Festus Ngeno, Minister of Water, Environment, Energy and Natural Resources – Nakuru County, explained that the national and county governments have intergovernmental structures that work seamlessly.

“In Kenya water related functions are a shared responsibility between the national government and the county government,” noted Eng. Ngeno.

In recent years, experts have called for a more carefully planned approach to borehole drilling in the country.

Leading water and energy solutions company Davis & Shirtliff has raised concern over unplanned drilling of boreholes noting that it could affect the ground water resources in the country in the long-term.

The company has noted indifference to the legislation that governs drilling of boreholes could ultimately have adverse effects on the aquifers and the quality of water in them.

Davis & Shirtliff Chief Executive Officer, David Gatende has called for the protection of surface and underground water resources effectively, sighting instances where boreholes are drilled within few meters of each other against the law requirement of at least 100 meters apart.
Borehole drilling in Kenya is a process that involves hydro-geological survey and an Environmental Impact Assessment tests as standard procedures laid out by the Water Resource Management Authority (WRMA) which is the supervising authority.

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WRMA is mandated to develop policies that govern the conservation of groundwater by balancing sustainable use and national development. The authority issues permits required for abstraction of water from all machine drilled boreholes, that excludes hand dug shallow wells. The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) on the other hand gives the nod after the submission of data from an Environmental Impact Assessment test.

Tom Armstrong explained that lack of due diligence before drilling a borehole often lead to depletion of the aquifer especially if the replenishing of the aquifer was not put into consideration and having a dry or low yielding borehole among others.

In the WRMA database, Nairobi county had 4,000 illegally dug boreholes in 2016.
Gatende warns that the sustainability of water resources in Kenya depends on proper planning and atrocious disregard for best practice would be disastrous for the country.

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