By Eric Kiniti
Water is a precious shared resource that is constantly under increasing pressure around the globe. East Africa’s freshwater resources are among the lowest in the world. The United Nations World Water Development report 2018, shows that the freshwater resources have decreased by two-thirds in the last 40 years, and are expected to drop further by over 50 per cent by 2050.
With a population of 53 million, 15 percent of Kenyans rely on unimproved water sources such as ponds, shallow wells and rivers, while 41 percent lack access to basic sanitation solutions, according to water.org.
As we mark World Water Day, we are called upon to raise awareness about groundwater, and just how important it is to mankind. A hidden treasure that enriches our lives, almost all of the liquid freshwater in the world is groundwater.
Data by Equinet Africa, a regional network on equity in health in East and Southern Africa, estimates that over 40% of Africans use groundwater as their main source of drinking water. However, groundwater accounts only for less than 20% of the region’s total renewable water resources.
Many parts of Kenya rely on groundwater, either directly from privately owned or communal boreholes, or via piped supplies from groundwater wellfields. We are reliant on groundwater sources for domestic, commercial and industrial needs. It is however limited by poor water quality and inadequate knowledge about the resource. River pollution by industrial waste and raw sewage also pose a great risk for groundwater protection.
Water stewardship and environmental sustainability should therefore be a priority if we are to make any headway in preserving this critical resource. Moreover, as Kenya continues to experience longer and more frequent droughts, the conservation of groundwater has the potential of boosting water supplies in the county.
For Kenya Breweries Limited, water is important and is key for the success of our business, cutting across our value chain: the farmers, brewers, distributors, retailers, our customers, and the communities where we operate.
Knowing the value of water to our businesses, we understand its value to communities is even greater. This is why we are dedicated to improving water availability and quality in our local communities in water-stressed areas.
We are spearheading projects dedicated to improving water access and sanitation by sinking boreholes in water-stressed areas. We have made considerable investments towards improving access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in communities through the launch of water projects aimed at providing safe, reliable and sustainable supply, where we have impacted over 2.5 million people. This includes boreholes, water tanks, pipes, pumps, water purification, integrated water and sanitation blocks and other improvements in water and sanitation.
One such initiative is the Kiranga project. The community in Central Kenya is benefiting from the installation of a solar-powered water project, funded by the EABL Foundation. The project, worth Ksh 7.7 million includes a borehole, solar pumping system and a 24,000-litre tank to benefit over 6,000 people in the area.
This financial year, we have invested Ksh40 million towards the completion of five solarized water projects in Nairobi, Murang’a, Homa Bay, Siaya and Tharaka Nithi counties, set to benefit over 100,000 people.
We have also recently partnered with Upper Tana Nairobi Water Fund, which allows urban users to invest in upstream watershed conservation efforts for the benefit of farmers, businesses and more than 9 million Kenyans who depend on the Tana River for their freshwater.
They unveiled an ambitious plan to expand their ongoing source water protection initiatives in the Tana catchment area and as part of our continued support, we donated Ksh 5 million to boost their endowment kitty. Our contribution capitalizes on collective action, impacting even more communities.
The reality that we operate in a water-stressed environment demands that we pay attention to our water usage. Through consistent operational efficiency improvements and creative engineering, we ensure that our internal process is efficient and enlist the best technology in the market.
Our wastewater treatment and water recovery plants in Nairobi and Kisumu save up to 150 million litres and 55 million litres of water a year, respectively, resulting in the reduction of water used in our operations by 40%.
When it comes to delivering efficiency in water use per litre of beer produced, our sites are in the top five ranking of all Diageo’s beer production sites. We also aim to recycle 100% of our water by 2030 and return 100% of wastewater from our operations back to the environment safely.
Water is also intricately connected to environmental conservation. We know that reforestation is vital in supporting water systems. In addition to protecting water resources, we need to lead in the fight against deforestation and be at the forefront of tree growing campaigns, as well as the protection of water catchment areas.
To redefine our planet’s future, environmental sustainability should be at the core of our strategies, operations and cascaded across our value chains. Let us transform the way we do business by drumming up support for the achievement of SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation.
The writer is the Group Corporate Relations Director at East African Breweries Limited (EABL)