Samuel Odhiambo Otieno

The solution is not always to design new structures, but if possible, to find non-structural ways of dealing with the demand problems. We need to manage the demand, rather than managing the supply first.

Sub-Saharan Africa
Kenya Sub-Saharan Africa

Samuel Odhiambo Otieno is from Kenya and works as a civil engineer for a water and sanitation- government organisation under the Ministry of Water and Sanitation. In his job, he is in charge of the conceptualization, preparation and design of water and sanitation projects, as well as construction supervision and contract management of projects under construction. In his current position, he has handled large water projects including water treatment plants, large diameter pipelines, master planning for the city’s sanitation, feasibility studies for new project and water tunnel construction supervision and contract management. He heard about IHE Delft from an alumnus who was giving consultancy services to his organisation. Samuel became close friends with him and his advice to Samuel was to pursue a Master in water engineering. Samuel did more research about IHE Delft and scholarships online and via social media and applied. He received an OKP fellowship and is studying Urban Water and Sanitation, with a specialization in Water Supply Engineering.

About IHE Delft: ‘’I have made new friends from different parts of the world. The experiences that we are sharing is quite interesting. We are battling the same problems and that is water and sanitation, but our experiences are quite different, every country has its own water problems.’’ Samuel explains: ‘’One of the things I have learned from the first modules is that, as a water engineer, we always want to design new water infrastructures. However, the solution is not always to design new structures, but if possible, to find a non-structural way of dealing with the demand problems. We need to manage the demand, rather than managing the supply first. For example: we do not have to build big dams to supply the increasing demand. We need to manage the demand first: what is causing the high demand, is it the way people are using the water? It is the consumption pattern, do they waste water? Are industries recycling and do people use rain water? So we should rethink how we can manage and reduce the per capita demand.’’

Samuel developed a passion for water when he started working in the water industry. He then realized that water and sanitation is quite a problem and a challenge in his country. ‘’My memory of how I grew up in the village came back to me - we were facing the same problems that people are facing right now; lack of clean, safe affordable and accessible potable water. Water is quite a challenge all over the world, especially in Kenya where I come from, where 80% of the country has been classified as arid and semi-arid land. Where I currently live in Nairobi city, I am afraid to tell people that I work in the water sector, because even in my house I do not have tap water.’’

About water problems in Kenya: ‘’The most basic problem is that there is insufficient access to water and proper sanitation services, especially in the informal settlements, where we are working on several projects to help solve this problem. The population is growing fast, the water resources are fewer and fewer, there are effects of global warming, and the rivers are becoming smaller. I remember that when we grew up, we could fetch water and drink it from a seasonal river. Nowadays those rivers are no longer there and if they are, they have become small streams or are polluted. The largest river and source of water in the capital city of Nairobi has totally been polluted and is a sewer dump overgrown with hyacinth. People have built up to the river bank and it is totally unprotected. We have to go cross county boundary, about 60-70 km to get water for the capital city, Nairobi, and there are a lot of discussions in the government about this cross boundary water resource sharing. One of the projects I am now working on is an 11.8 km water tunnel which transfers water from three rivers located in another county 70 km away to an existing dam, to be treated in a new 140,000m3 /d water treatment plant to use in Nairobi city. ´It has been a great project to work on with political and technical, as well as contractual challenges.

Samuel believes that this is just the beginning of greater things to come in his career. ‘’My objective is to perform extremely well, obtain my Master’s degree at IHE Delft and return to my country and put the knowledge and skills into use, as well as train other engineers. I hope for an opportunity in the future to pursue my PhD at IHE Delft and conduct research that will have impact on society.’’

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