Villagers fetch water from a borehole. Researchers say water from wells in Kisumu County is contaminated with faecal matter. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP
- The most affected areas are Migosi, Manyatta and Obunga.
- The water table is very close to the surface, meaning digging as little as four metres can get one to the water.
- The data also lists cholera as one of the top five diseases reported in the county.
Wells whose water safety was tested are recharged by water that passes through pit latrines.
Wells in Kisumu County, which provide water for nearly a quarter of residents, are polluted with faecal matter and other pathogens.
Research conducted by Kisumu-based environmentalist Joseph Okotto in partnership with local and United Kingdom universities showed that 46 wells whose water safety was tested are recharged by water that passes through pit latrines.
“Generally, the underground water is not safe for human consumption. The wells are dug very close to the ground, unprotected and when it rains and given the near non-existent garbage collection in the city, all the dirt from human waste to oil are washed into the wells,” he told the Nation.
He said he observed that pit latrines have been constructed as close as three metres to the wells.
“When the wells are recharging, some of the water pass through the latrines to the well… when the latrines are placed further the water will purify itself covering the long distance to the well,” he said.
The most affected areas are Migosi, Manyatta and Obunga.
The series of studies between 2000 and late 2015 have raised the alarm on health hazards in the face of rapid and uncoordinated urbanisation since devolution.
Looking at the soil profile in Kisumu, the water table is very close to the surface, meaning digging as little as four metres can get one to the water— an advantage that Mr Okotto says spells a lot of danger for the residents.
The researchers reached their conclusions using a scientific method that searches for thermotolerant coliforms, whose presence would signify contamination.
A spot check by the Nation in Nyalenda and Migosi in June 2016 showed that some of the wells were covered only with a thin iron sheet that would not stop water flowing into them during rainy seasons.
The 2014 Kenya Demographic Health Survey states that 15.5 per cent of children under five in Kisumu County suffer from diarrhoea, a disease linked to the use of contaminated water and unhygienic food preparation and human waste disposal practices.
According to a fact sheet available on the Kisumu County government’s website, only one in four households (25.3 per cent) in the county have piped water.
Another 18.3 per cent rely on boreholes, 2.3 per cent depend on protected wells while 8.3 per cent get their water from springs.
The data further shows that half of the population of Kisumu (54.2 per cent) have access to clean water, while the rest rely on water vendors, streams, the lake and unprotected wells.
The data also lists cholera as one of the top five diseases reported in the county.
County Director of Health Dickens Onyango said the water issue is complex.
“The economic situation of the people means they can only get water from the wells … it would really [help] a great deal if the stakeholders in the water and sanitation industries increase access to clean water,” he said.