The Water Sector Reform in Kenya Is Bearing Fruit
Following the enactment of the Water Act of 2002, the Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MWI) commenced implementation of far-reaching reforms in the water sector. These reforms were aimed at improving sector performance and addressing the challenges of water resources management and poor delivery of water services. These reforms clearly separated the management of water resources from the provision of water services. The reforms were also designed to ensure that pro-poor and human rights-based approaches to water services were an integral part of the national water sector strategy.
Since the reforms started in 2003, the sector has realized improved service levels and increased access to water for consumers and the formerly underserved. The declining trends in access to piped water witnessed over the last decades (2009 Census Report) have now been reversed in urban areas as a result of reforms (Fig. 1 – the biggest 24 WSPs serve over 80% of the total urban population served in Kenya).
Consumers have become more involved in improving the benefits of water through increased awareness and enhanced participation. In addition, more resources have been made available to the sector (Fig. 2) by governments and development partners as a result of the reforms.
The personnel of 17 new sector institutions have been trained and the institutions can operate independently.
Water services were commercialized (not privatized!) with service delivery provided by autonomous publicly-owned private companies managed on a commercial basis. Performance improvement has been noted as a result. The Water Services Regulator (WASREB) enforces regulation, analyses and makes public the annual comparative performance of water companies and the Water Services Board (Impact Reports).
This provides surrogate competition that has put pressure on the duty bearers to continuously improve services to consumers. Furthermore, the establishment of water action groups was promoted, providing a strong voice to right holders comprising consumers and the underserved. Annually the Water Services Trust Fund brings an additional 400,000 people access to safe water, which outstrips annual urban population growth. The Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) and its regional structures are functional. Users are now more involved in managing the resources inside their catchment areas. Abstraction of water is now better regulated and increases in river flows are being observed. Though the principles of the human right to water and sanitation are recognized and respected by all institutions, there is an urgent need for governments to raise the profile of sanitation, since progress on coverage here has not been as good as for water.
These are clear indications that the reforms are working, gaining speed and having positive results on the ground. This has been confirmed by a perception survey commissioned by the GIZ and conducted by Infotrak Harris, a company with experience in collecting and analyzing data from such surveys.
The survey was carried out between the 18th and 23rd December, 2011, and had four broad objectives: to establish and gain insight into the services delivered by the key institutions under the Ministry of Water and Irrigation; to gauge public perception on services delivered by the water companies and the WSBs; to assess the public’s level of knowledge and awareness of the various interventions and services; and to identify the achievements and challenges of the water sector reforms. The survey was carried out in nine selected towns (Nairobi, Malindi, Kisumu, Kakamega, Garissa, Meru, Nyeri, Nakuru, Kitale) employing the use of quantitative face-to-face interviews, qualitative focus groups, in-depth interviews and literature/desk reviews. The nine selected towns combined account for over 70% of the urban water and sewerage services provisioned in Kenya.
The following describes the key findings of the perception survey, which confirmed that the impacts of the reform are being felt by consumers:
1. The majority of Kenyans (59%) are satisfied with the provision of water and sewerage services in their area (Fig. 3). Nyeri recorded the highest satisfaction ratings (82%). This high satisfaction compared to Nairobi, Kakamega etc. indicates that professional management and good governance rather than training is key to performance improvements.
2. More than half of the respondents (56%) felt services were better now than before the commercialization of water & sewerage services (Fig. 4). Of the respondents in each town, 89% in Nyeri, 76% in Garissa, 70% in Meru, 55% in Kisumu, 50% in Kitale, 46% in Nairobi, 43% in Malindi, 43% in Nakuru and 36% in Kakamega confirmed that services were better currently. Dissatisfaction levels (those responding “worse than before”) were zero in Meru, only 2% in Nyeri and as much as 18% in both Nairobi and Malindi. The rest fell somewhere in between.
In response to the question “Since the commercialization of water supply and sewerage (wss) services from local authorities to water companies, has there been a change in the way water is managed locally?” 42% of the respondents said “Yes”, 27% said “Somewhat” while only 31% said “No”.
3. Of those receiving piped water in urban areas, 93% access it within 100m or less: 37% have access inside a compound/plot; 26% inside a main house; 19% at about 50m from a main house and 11% about 100m from a main house through water kiosks by formalized /regulated water providers.
4. On the quality and cost of water from water kiosks, a majority of the respondents indicated that it is clean (66%) and affordable (62%).
5. Of the respondents who do not have individual connections, 46% buy water from water vendors and 34% from water kiosks, while the remaining 20% buy from private boreholes.
6. Overall seven out of ten urban water users have seen positive changes in the way water has been managed since decentralization and commercialization. Of these 42% were absolutely sure while 27% were somewhat sure.
7. Decentralization and commercialization of water and sewerage services has improved key aspects of water services (Fig . 5) such as quality, availability and affordability. Approximately six out of ten people stated that water was affordable, 68% feel that the quality of water has improved while 56% indicated they spend less on water.
8. Overall performance of the Ministry of Water and Irrigation was rated as 5.7 out of a possible 10. The rating was based on public satisfaction with the ministry’s ability to carry out its mandate, which is to develop legislation, policies and strategies to coordinate and guide the water sector as well as planning and mobilizing resources. The performance ratings of the national water institutions (WASREB, WSTF, WRMA, NWCPC) were more or less the same with an average of 5.3. The Water Service Boards, whose mandate is to ensure the development and management of water assets (water supply and sewerage), scored a mean rating of 5.9. The water companies, charged with providing water and sewerage services and who are the face of the water sector since they frequently interact consumers, had an average performance rating of 6.2 where the highest rated was Nyeri (8.1) followed by Meru (7.0). Nairobi received the lowest ratings (5.3).
These findings confirm that the water sector reform is succeeding and creating the desired effects. Respondents pointed out the achievements in provision of water and sewerage services including: better and quality service delivery; availability of clean and quality water; and affordable water and fewer/reduced shortages. However there are key challenges facing the water sector. These most important of these are: water rationing and shortages (35%); poor sewerage systems (32%); and perceived high water bills (27%). Other challenges include neglecting duties like pipe repair (3%) and governance issues (2%).
Water quality is the top concern of consumers (62% of the respondents) followed by availability (19% of the respondents) and pricing (15% of the respondents) respectively.
A majority of survey respondents who purchase water are not satisfied with the current pricing, especially Nairobi residents where dissatisfaction stood at 78%, followed by Kakamega residents at 68% and Garissa at 54%. These are also the towns with the greatest number of consumers who get water from vendors, which may explain the high level of dissatisfaction. Therefore it is obvious that Nairobi and other lower scoring towns need to follow the Nyeri example and improve governance (board of directors, top and middle management) and increase efforts to extend services to the urban poor. Big towns like Nairobi and Mombasa have hardly applied for grants from the WSTF to help extend services to low income areas, indicating that there is potential there for improving the implementation of the government’s pro-poor policy.