A delegation from the Water and Sanitation Committee of Nairobi County, Kenya, and Nairobi City Water & Sewerage Company visited Australia in September to meet with a range of stakeholders involved in Melbourne’s water and sanitation management, including storm water harvesting. The visit was to support the development of water and sanitation policy for the Nairobi County. Ian Moorhouse of DG Consulting organised a study tour for the delegation, and Prof Jane Doolan of the University of Canberra facilitated a roundtable discussion session and identified potential opportunities for collaboration between Australia and Nairobi County.
Kenya has relatively recently changed its constitution to introduce a second level of government, in addition to the central national government. Kenya is currently undergoing the devolution of responsibility from the central government to 47 counties across Kenya, including the Nairobi County government. One water company has responsibility for the whole Nairobi County, with some 2.9 million water supply connections. Nairobi has no water supply source within its county and is dependent upon water sharing with 3 other counties without clear arrangements having yet been put in place. Water supply is generally less than demand, with rationing used to manage supplies.
The study program provided the delegation with an overview of Melbourne’s water and sewerage systems, the changing policy context, integrated water management by the urban water businesses, standards setting and research for the future. The delegation showed interest in community engagement, demand management, stepped tariff structures, fit for purpose use, de-centralised technology solutions, public education, customer hardship programs, structure of government and policy development. Particular interest was shown in Prof Tony Wong’s session on integrated water management, a mix of water sources and water sensitive liveable cities. All of the host organisations were very cooperative and generous with the time staff made available to meet with the delegation.
Delegates said they were impressed by the way water management appeared to be linked together in Australia – three levels of governments, water companies, industry groups, universities, research bodies. The idea of sewerage and stormwater as a resource – not a problem to be disposed of – was a key message that emerged from discussions. Delegates appreciated being exposed to ‘new thinking’ and saw benefits in expanding their current focus on ‘taps and toilets’ to include community engagement, education and public well being, in a similar manner to Melbourne water retailers.
The delegation expressed a desire for further collaboration with Australia, initially focusing on 1) water sharing arrangements, including clarity around institutional arrangements, and 2) long term water resource planning. The delegation will draft a report from the study tour and then consult with DFAT in Nairobi on possible next steps involving Australia.