Expensive Water Comes at Your Request

Expensive Water Comes at Your Request


What looks like a cheap way of getting rid of our waste will not look so cheap when we are bedridden with typhoid or when the water bills come in.

By Ivan Kibuka-Kiguli
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First published: May 21, 2010


A while back, the media was awash with accusations from a Kampala Member of Parliament against the Managing Director of National Water & Sewerage Corporation. Some of the accusations rotated around money – consumers are paying too much for water. The accused Managing Director responded with among other things, a denial of arbitrary increases in water costs.


I will only touch one aspect raised by the Member of Parliament, namely that the cost of water supplied by NWSC has been steadily rising over the years. We, the consumers are forking out more money to pay for a consumable whose quality is even sometimes visibly inadequate for humans.  Naturally, we rush to blame NWSC. But, are we in fact missing a trick?

Through the media and as is obvious wherever one travels in Uganda, especially in and around Kampala, we all aware now how much we pollute our natural water courses. We chuck empty plastic bottles, Waragi sachets, etc all over the place and get surprised when the streets flood after an hour’s heavy downpour. Whereas KCC is evidently not up to the task in cleaning the city up, let’s ask ourselves who actually dumps this rubbish around in the first place. You are right; it isn’t the stray cows and dogs that wander around town. In the end, the rubbish (most of it plastic and not biodegradable) gets to water courses like Nakivubo Channel ahead of the rain runoff because it floats.

To compound matters, we discharge everything, industrial effluent and all into a broken and creaking (and more often these days a non-existing) sewerage system which leads to, most prominently, Lake Victoria. We then expect nature to take over and do the needful.

Well, we are expecting a little too much. NWSC uses Lake Victoria as the primary (if not only) source of raw water in all its plants located on the shores of the lake, most notably Ggaba. To continue supplying us with water at affordable rates, NWSC has to push the intake pipes further into the lake, with attendant construction and maintenance costs. But because the water is still polluted somewhat, NWSC spends more on chemical treatment of this water every year and the water spends longer retention times in the plant to be cleaned up to allowed standards. The bottom line is less water but higher bills for everyone.

NWSC aims for profitable operations or at least to break even. There is no way it is going to do this when its source of raw water is accumulating pollutants every year. This is where you and I come in. Let us aim at eliminating indiscriminate rubbish disposal and waste water discharges. Industrial polluters especially, should take advantage of available technologies to treat their waste water before discharging it into the environment. What goes round comes round. What looks like a cheap way of getting rid of our waste will not look so cheap when we are bedridden with typhoid or when the water bills come in.

By Ivan Kibuka-Kiguli
more from author >>
First published: May 21, 2010
The author is a pollution control equipment engineer/consultant in Kampala.