Signed! New rural water supply management contracts in Kenya

Piloting public-private-community managed water systems to increase resilience of communities to climate effects in arid and semi-arid areas.

Water collection in rural Kenya

In the arid and semi-arid rural counties of Kitui and West Pokot in Kenya, the signing of tailor-made delegated water management contracts between county governments, private companies, and community managed water systems is building the foundations for better managed and more climate-resilient water systems.

Success in both counties is expected to improve the management of community water supply schemes, expand service reach, and generate the proof points needed for the remaining six EDE-CPIRA [1] counties to accelerate their pace in water governance structure and systems improvements.

Kitui county

In the presence of the Kitui County Government, the Kitui Water and Sanitation Company Limited (KITWASCO) water service provider signed a delegated management contract with the Kabati and Kavoo community managed water systems on 12 July. Brokered by SNV following EDE-CPIRA capacity strengthening activities – for county government officials, water service providers, and the water management committees of both community managed water systems – the terms of the contract were drafted in line with the Water Services Regulatory Board’s (WASREB) water supply national guidelines for rural and underserved areas.[2]

The signed management contract delegates to KITWASCO some technical support and supervision duties over Kabati and Kavoo systems, ensuring compliance with standards set by the County Government of Kitui and WASREB. Overall water governance, financial management, and operations and maintenance are expected to improve through KITWASCO’s technical support, and the skills and knowledge gained from SNV trainings. Specifically, the arrangement will seek to improve operations, the efficiency of revenue collection, and increase the number of hours of running water supply and households served.

Water collection in rural Kenya
Water collection in rural Kenya with storage tank connection

In Kabati for instance, a key challenge will be to improve operations and expand water services supplied by a solar-powered borehole. Currently, the system is servicing a meagre 28 of its 1,000 household-capacity across seven villages.[3]

In Kavoo, the high costs of pumping water due to the price of diesel to power the community’s borehole will require specific attention. Currently, the price of diesel accounts for approximately 70% of all operation costs.

The County Government of Kitui will oversee all parties’ compliance with the terms of the delegated management contract.

West Pokot county

In West Pokot County, the delegated management contract signed on 8 July between Kapenguria Water and Sanitation Company (KAWASES) and Muruny Water Users Association (WUA) provides KAWASES with a larger scope, i.e., full professional management responsibility over the Muruny-Chepareria community water supply scheme.

As per the contract, KAWASES will hire a scheme manager for the day-to-day operations of the Muruny-Chepareria community water supply system. The WUA, on the other hand, will be involved in community sensitisation efforts and water service fee collection. Through the WUA, community members will gain better insight into national water supply policies and the development objectives of the County Government of West Pokot. Throughout, the county government shall oversee implementation of the contract to ensure that KAWASES’ professional management of water services respects consumers’ rights, as per WASREB regulations

This ‘blended’ delegated management contract aims to address an earlier management gap that the WUA could not fulfil in the past. It is assumed that as technical and management skills become more enhanced, the system will be able to expand, serving more households with less supply interruptions.

Stakeholders pose for a photo after contract signing between KITWASCO and Kavoo.

Stakeholders pose for a photo after contract signing between KITWASCO and Kavoo.

Contract signing in rural Kenya 1

Partnership signing between county government, Kapenguria Water Company, and Muruny Chepareria.

Diverse technologies, but similar challenges

Kabati and Kavoo rely on groundwater-based systems (solar-powered and diesel-powered, respectively), while Muruny-Chepareria depends on a gravity-fed (surface) water supply system. Beyond the replacement or upgrade of broken or dilapidated parts, strengthening and professionalising management performance of systems have emerged as an equal, if not, far more urgent aspect that requires focused attention, time, and resources.

Many water systems in Kenya are managed by voluntary Water Users Associations (WUAs). Often, WUA members lack the skills and commercial orientation required to ensure the delivery of professional services, sustain these, and take them to scale. This has led to operational inefficiencies, unaccounted-for-water, and where governance structures exist – low accountability mechanisms to manage revenues or facilitate quality and responsive operations.

In the context of our changing climates, technologies – if poorly managed – will never be sufficient in building the resilience of our water systems and people’s continued access to their water and sanitation rights and needs.

The EDE-CPIRA project will continue with its capacity building activities in the remaining six counties, and together with government, private sector, and community-based water management partners – search for fit-for-purpose water management arrangements in their respective areas.

[1] EDE-CPIRA (End Drought Emergencies-Climate Proofed Infrastructure for Improved Water Supply and Sanitation in Arid and Semi-Arid Land Areas) is an SNV and Water Sector Trust Fund project supported by the European Union and the Government of Kenya.
[2] The guidelines provide for delegation of some responsibilities by a licenced water service provider to a Community/Small-Scale Service Provider (SSSP). WASREB Rural Water Guidelines -  https://wasreb.go.ke/downloads/Guideline%20on%20Provision%20of%20Water%20for%20Rural%20and%20Underserved%20Areas.pdf
[3] Kabati, Nzemeli, Ngunga syanthi, Ndolo’s corner, Kyangungi, Kasue, and Katheka

Interested to learn more? Contact, David Wanyoike, WASH Sector Coordinator, by email.