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Nairobi collaboration highlights Global Goal on clean water and sanitation


In Nairobi, Kenya, 38 percent of all prepared drinking water becomes so called non-revenue water, with about half of this amount lost due to leakages and half informally tapped and sold to residents for up to 20 times the recommended price. 209,000 cubic meters of water is not accounted for everyday, and this adds up to a yearly cost of about USD 20 million for the water provider.

This directly affects the capacity of the Nairobi water provider to fund necessary expansions of services, especially for the poor. In Mashimoni Village on the south side of Mathare Valley, which is Nairobi’s second largest informal settlement, the gaps in water provision are filled by community groups (or in some cases “cartels”). There is a large number of informal pipes and public water taps that are maintained by local groups who sell 20 liter jerrycans at a price that varies with water availability. The interaction between the water provider and the community is very limited and mutual distrust is high.

Maji Wazi (“Open Water”)

Ericsson, UN-Habitat and Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company are collaborating in a research project, to explore how digital technologies can help this situation. Not only by giving Nairobi City Water better tools to understand the system, but also by strengthening accountability and transparency to promote good governance and increase mutual trust. The Maji Wazi (“Open Water”) concept – and the small-scale technology tests and prototype development that has been done – illustrates how sensor data for water distribution can be collected, analyzed and shared with key stakeholders.

Two complementary tracks of research combine the grassroots perspective and the understanding of demands in informal settlement, with both the top-down perspective and the Nairobi-wide supply and rationing considerations. As a platform, Maji Wazi could provide the necessary data to inform an equitable distribution of water in Nairobi, and assist in bridging informal and formal systems in a responsible way. In February my colleague Marcus Nyberg Senior Researcher presented this project together with UN-Habitat and NCWSC at the African Water Congress in Nairobi.

World Water Day

Today is a good day to highlight this, as it is World Water Day. This is an international observance and an opportunity to learn more about water-related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference. World Water Day dates back to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, to which the United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day. It has been held annually since then.

Each year, UN-Water — the entity that coordinates the UN’s work on water and sanitation — sets a theme for World Water Day corresponding to a current or future challenge. The engagement campaign is coordinated by one or several of the UN-Water Members with a related mandate. You can read more here: http://www.unwater.org/worldwaterday/about/en/

Written by Matilda Gennvi-Gustafsson

Matilda worked with environmental and production management within the food industry in the early 1990s and joined Ericsson in 1997. She has focused, over the years, on sustainability, business and change management. She is, since the beginning of 2009, working at group level as Sustainability Director, where Ericsson’s sustainability strategy is one of her main areas of responsibility.