Until December last year, anyone visiting parts of Buru Buru estate would be stopped, asked questions and frisked by countless security guards.
Not any more. These days, even handcart pushers can walk in and out of the estate any time and unperturbed, as long as their handcarts are loaded with cans of water.
Handcart operators scrambling for space with motorists on the narrow estate roads has become ordinary.
Some residents have raised fears of insecurity.
Buru Buru has been losing its shine, thanks to water rationing introduced by the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company early last month.
Ms Penina Baraka, a mother of one, has been a Buru Buru resident for three years.
She moved to the estate from nearby sprawling Umoja because Buru Buru never lacked water — until three weeks ago.
Ms Baraka says NWSC pumps water to her estate on Sundays and Wednesday only.
When this happens, she has to ensure that she stores enough to sustain her and her family for the remaining waterless days.
“There are storage tanks on the roof of the building. When there is water, it is pumped to the tanks but at times, it gets finished before the next pumping period,” she said.
When the water in the tanks runs out, she and her neighbours have to turn to the vendors.
This means she had to invest in extra drums to have sufficient water for the week.
When Ms Baraka has to do laundry, she has to replenish her water stock. A 20-litre container goes for Sh80.
However, the price drops by half on Sundays and Wednesdays when taps are running.
“Since rationing began, I have spent more than Sh3,000 on water from vendors,” she said.
Ideally, NWSC ought to send the water bill on time.
However, it almost always comes late, and as a result Ms Baraka is surcharged Sh1,000. So she ends up paying more for less.
She is just one of the 250,000 households who are clients of the water company.
All are feeling the heat of having to cope with less water in the soaring February temperature.
But Ms Baraka counts herself among the lucky few.
Ms Lillian Ouma, who lives with her family in Pipeline Estate cannot remember the last time water dripped from taps in her apartment.
Pipeline and surrounding estates have the same problem.
Outer Ring Road, which passes through the estate is under construction.
Vendors in the densely populated estate in Embakasi have been making a kill as they are the only reliable supplies of water.
Some apartments, however, have boreholes.
“The water I use comes from a borehole and it is salty. I only use it for flushing the toilet and cleaning the house and clothes,” Mrs Ouma said.
“If I need cooking or drinking water, I must buy from the vendors. Fortunately, they are many though we don’t know where they get the water.”
Contacted, NWSC corporate affairs manager Mbaruku Vyakweli said the rate at which the water level at Ndaka-ini dam in Murang’a County was dropping is worrying.
“The water level is at 38 per cent. It is not possible for Nairobi residents to get water as they used to before we introduced rationing,” he said.