Water Quality Assessment in Nairobi’s Kibera Slums


 As a result of rapid urbanization in a context of economic constraints, the majority of urban residents in sub-Saharan Africa live in slums often characterized by a lack of basic services such as water and sewerage. Consequently, the urban poor often use water from other sources such as water tanks and water kiosks which are susceptible to contamination by the handlers when storing and transporting. This study sought to assess the drinking-water quality of Nairobi’s kibera slum in comparison with WHO’s drinking water standards and coming up with recommendations with the aim of improving the sanitary conditions.

This study involved 30 respondents from lindi and silanga villages in Kibera slum, Kenya. Four water samples were collected from the water sources used by the respondents for laboratory analysis of coliforms, chemical and physical parameters. Of these 4 samples, each was from the water sources identified as the main sources in the slum; water tank, tap water and rainwater. One sample was taken from the household for the purposes of this study. The study found that most people (45%) in the kibera slum used water tanks as the main source of domestic water, whereas the rest used tap water. Whereas most people used pit latrines for excreta disposal, a substantial percentage of children excreted in the open field. The main domestic water sources were found to be highly contaminated with faecal matter. Total coliforms were found in 75% of the water samples, with the only exception of tap water which did not have any coliforms.

The main reasons for contamination were improper connections conducted by residents who redirected the water from the main distribution system to the numerous water tanks. Other reasons were poor sanitation practices by the residents when handling, transporting and storing water. To address this problem, treatment of the water at community or household level and intensive behavioural change in sanitary practices are recommended. Efforts should be made to provide regulated tap water to this community and to other slums in sub-Saharan Africa where tap water is not accessible. However, more sampling of different water sources and different villages within Kibera is recommended.

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