Governor Wycliffe Oparanya has cautioned the Kakamega County Urban Water and Sewerage Company against increasing water tariffs.
He said the company should make water supply affordable and available to the majority of residents.
The company is proposing an almost double increase in its water charges, amid souring complaints by residents about the erratic supply of the commodity.
The firm held a public consultative forum at Bishop Nicholas Stam Pastoral Centre on Friday on the reviewed tariffs it intends to implement.
The biggest losers if the proposed changes are implemented will be domestic users who will pay Sh480 up from Sh320 for consumption of between zero and six cubic metres of water a month.
They will be charged Sh80 up from Sh45 per cubic meter of water.
Domestic consumers who use between 101 and 300 cubic metres of water per month will be charged Sh200 from Sh135 per unit.
The proposal by the company to review water tariffs upwards is meant to generate more revenue for sustaining its operations and maintenance.
Firm CEO Abdi Kadiri said a tariff was necessary to cover the rising costs of water treatment, high electricity costs, taxation, facility expansion and maintenance of water and sewerage infrastructure.
“For example, a tin of chlorine that went for Sh8,500 in 2012 is now going for Sh12,000. The daily operations and maintenance costs have risen,” Kadiri said.
He said the last time the tariff was reviewed was in 2012.
Kadiri said the enhanced tariff will reduce non-revenue water by investing in better methods of conservation and equipment to control wastage.
The CEO listed a number of benefits residents will enjoy from enhanced tariffs. They include an increase in the quantity of water supplied, increased hours of supply from the current 18 hours, improved quality of water supply to 95 per cent and more storage capacity.
“Water tariff is a regulated instrument put in place by the regulator to ensure that companies run efficiently and supply water at a reasonable price to all consumers,” he said.
But Oparanya challenged the firm to explore other ways of generating money to fund its activities.
“You need to reach out to donors for support. The law allows donors to deal with counties directly, and you should take advantage of them instead of overburdening citizens,” he said.
Oparanya said the company should digitise its services.
“It is unfortunate that in this era the company is still using metre readers. Automating your services is very crucial,” he said.
He said strict measures put in place before one is connected have discouraged many residents.
“The issue of demand for deposits from people seeking water connectivity is discouraging. Go to clients in their homes and connect them with water,” the governor said.
Oparanya said companies should instal solar in their water projects to cut down on electricity costs.
The Kenya National Chambers of Commerce and Industry has also opposed the proposed review of tariffs.
County chapter chairman Wycliffe Kibisu said high water charges would slow down growth and curtail industrialisation.
“You cannot double water tariffs beyond counties like Kiambu and Nairobi. The levies will scare away investors seeking to set up factories in Kakamega,” he said.
Residents in August protested over a new sewer levy by the company, saying they had been ambushed.
The sewer charges range between Sh203 and Sh354, which manager Iddi Osundwa said was a company decision.
Resident David Shimoli said he could not understand why he was being charged for sewer services that were not offered.
“There is no plausible reason for this. I use a septic tank in my home at Amalemba estate and nobody has the right to ask me to pay sewer charges,” he said.
The existing sewer network only covers the Site and Service Scheme, Milimani, Mudiri and Otiende estates.
The water firm is one of the service providers within the Lake Victoria North Water Services Board.