Water Sector Reform

Programme description

Title: Water Sector Reform Programme
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Kenya
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (MEWNR)
Overall term: 2014 to 2016

Kenya. A worker from the Water Resources Management Authority takes an inventory of legal and illegal extraction points in the Tana catchment area. © GIZ


The United Nations classifies Kenya as a water-poor country. At about 650 cubic metres per capita, Kenya's annual water supply is well below the benchmark of 1,000 cubic metres. This figure will decline further as the population rises. What is more, unmet basic needs, uncontrolled discharge of wastewater into water bodies and climate change stand in the way of peaceful development in the country.

Inadequate access to drinking water is an especially serious concern in urban areas. About 80 per cent of all illnesses in Kenya are directly connected to poor water supply and sanitation. The poor population, which makes up almost half of Kenya's 40 million people, is especially hard hit. Annual population growth sometimes exceeds 10 per cent in poor urban areas. The constant growth in population density is making hygiene conditions even worse. Infant mortality is higher than the national average in these most rapidly growing areas of Kenya. Poor people are deprived of their human rights to water supply and sanitation because of their reliance on informal services in towns and cities. Women and girls are particularly affected by poor urban sanitation: after dark, they are unable to answer the call of nature outside their homes for safety reasons.


The urban poor have increased, sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Water resources management has improved.


The programme aims to formalise service provision for all citizens and fulfil their human right to water supply and sanitation. Discrimination of the urban poor should end, and they should enjoy the same services as people in middle and high income brackets.

The Ministry of Water and Irrigation has now created a legal framework, and the regulatory authority has established implementation rules. A poverty fund, the Water Services Trust Fund, has also been set up to extend services to poor, under-served areas. The Water Resources Management Authority is implementing a water management strategy that aims to increase water supply with the active participation of water users, while also reducing water conflicts and the pollution of water resources.

The programme is advising the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, the Water Services Regulatory Board, the Water Services Trust Fund, the Water Resource Management Authority and selected water utilities in three areas of action:

  1. Sector framework
  2. Provision of services by sector institutions and utilities
  3. Integrated water resources management and environmental protection

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is cofinancing basic sanitation measures for the urban poor.

The consulting firm GFA Consulting Group GmbH supports the implementation of the project.


The Ministry of Water and Irrigation has submitted a draft version of a new water law to parliament that guarantees the implementation of the new constitution.

The Water Service Trust Fund works together with water utilities to conduct projects providing water and sanitation services in poor urban areas nationwide. So far, about 1.4 million people have gained access to clean drinking water and approximately 100,000 people now have access to public toilets. In a pilot phase, close to 10,000 people have been provided with basic sanitation in their homes to date. This figure should rise to at least 600,000 people by 2016.

MajiData, a comprehensive database about the water and sanitation situation in the more than 2,000 poor urban areas, is available as a planning tool.

The Water Services Regulatory Board has put in place an information system and publishes an annual report comparing the performance of water and wastewater companies, thus increasing transparency and accountability.

Under-served people in eight low-income urban areas have been empowered by the creation of water action groups. For the first time, consumers and the under-served have a voice that is heard not only by local water companies, but also by the national regulator.

Kenya. A water kiosk run by the water provider in Oloolaiser. © GIZ

Water conflicts have declined in sub-catchment areas thanks to the work of water resources user associations and by issuing permits to control over-extraction.

The Water Resource Management Authority publishes an annual report on the status of the country's water resources. This aims to raise public awareness and safeguard the environment for future generations.