Turning sewage into money and power in Africa

By Nicel Jane Avellana

Nov 21, 2013 08:02 PM EST

In Kenya, the problem of handling human waste looms large. According to a report which appeared on the Thomson Reuters Foundation website, the sewer systems in Nairobi and other counties in Kenya are either non-existent or are old and damaged. An inadequate sewer system results to various health hazards, such as cholera and typhoid.

However, the Nyeri County and Karatina University decided to turn urban sewage into something beneficial. They plan to produce biogas from the local municipal sewerage and then utilize it to provide power to the water pumps for the municipal water firm. They are working with Germany-based consulting company ILF Consulting Engineers on the project.

In order to generate power that can pump water to Nyeri County residents, the project is done near the water treatment facilities. It is estimated to cost USD 1.15 million but the month savings are expected to be substantial. The county government can save around USD 12,700 a month in electricity bills to pump and treat water.

According to the report, surplus biogas would then be sold to local households for their own use. Later on, extra electricity may also be put up for sale. However, the project will only produce sufficient electricity for the water system since the government of Nyeri County is not authorized by law to sell the electricity to the locals. This is because the parliament has not yet approved to put an end to the monopoly in Kenya's distribution of electricity.

Producing biogas also leaves sludge as a byproduct which can then be utilized as organic fertilizer which can also be sold to the farmers in the county.

The report said sewage biogas is not only beneficial to health and the environment but is also a way to help county governments generate income. This also paves the way for much-needed investments that will renovate Kenya's sewer systems.

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