Institute policies on water recycling: Davis & Shirtliff

The country’s leading water and energy solutions company Davis & Shirtliff has called on the Government to establish policies that will encourage water recycling in Kenya to ensure the sustainability of scarce water resources. 

According to the firm, the country has existing infrastructure that can be built on to encourage recycling. For instance, most urban centres have a central sewage treatment plant that if enhanced, would allow recycling of wastewater.

“Kenya is one of the world’s water stressed countries but the UN believes there could be enough water to meet the world’s growing needs, if only we could find a better way to make the most of every drop. One way to do this is to think about water in terms of the circular economy – keeping water within social or industrial systems for as long as possible and simultaneously extracting additional value from it. To do this, Kenya should look at water recycling on a large scale as a viable option to tackle the water problem in the country,” Davis & Shirtliff technical director Eng. Philip Holi said.

Policies that, for example, encourage the use of recycled water in agriculture will go a long way in ensuring water is kept in the social system for as long as possible.

The government, Eng. Holi said, can consider policies that create irrigated agriculture zones next to centralized sewage treatment works that would use recycled water and be run under strict guidelines. He said that to support the water recycling agenda, policies that make it mandatory for buildings to have separate lines for the toilets and drinking water, where recycled water can then be used for flushing toilets.

“Wastewater management and recycling will reduce pollution to water sources such as rivers, and groundwater and this would make such water bodies available for irrigation. Nairobi River for instance is a freshwater river but cannot be used for irrigation because of heavy pollution from sewage. Recycling will also reduce the use of freshwater resources and therefore leave more water to be used in irrigation,” he said.

This call rides on the back of data from the recently released World Water Development Report 2019 that says agriculture – including irrigation, livestock and aquaculture – is by far the largest water consumer, accounting for 69% of annual water withdrawals globally. Industry – including power generation – on the
other hand accounts for 19% and households for 12%.

Putting in place policies and regulations should go hand in hand with investing in the right infrastructure to make the realization of water recycling in the country a reality, Eng. Holi said adding that, “Investment in modern wastewater treatment and recycling technologies, enforcement of existing regulations on wastewater management, expansion of existing sewer lines and educating the masses on the water shortage the country faces and how recycled water can supplement the shortage should complement the establishment of new policies and regulations that make water recycling attractive.”

Infrastructure that would encourage water recycling at the domestic level would entail ensuring that homes are connected to a proper sewer line that would deliver the wastewater to a central wastewater treatment works where the sewage can be treated and recycled. Where it is not possible to connect a home to a sewer line; then each home would require investing in a domestic wastewater treatment plant. Smaller decentralized systems can also be set up to serve estates or property developments.

Homes would also need to modify how water is distributed in houses, where drinking water lines are separated from toilet and gardening water lines to allow recycle of wastewater once treated. Engineers and architects are encouraged to factor in such designs when developing new projects.

Kenya can borrow notes on water recycling from Israel, which recycles approximately 90% of all its wastewater. Israel has been able to not only survive drought and periods of water scarcity but it has also been able to thrive and use reclaimed water as a fulcrum for creating new businesses and economic opportunities like exporting surplus water to neighboring countries. 

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