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The Important Role of Associations in the Water Sector in Kenya

(WASPA=Water Service Providers’ Association and KWIA=Kenya Water Industry Association)


By Eng. Sabine Sibler


With regard to water provision the United Nations define that a sufficient water supply of a country should have a minimum of 1000 m3 per capita per year. Kenya, with a mere 729 m3 per capita per year ranks among the water scarce nations (UNEP 2008) and hence is in need of efficient water provision, sanitation and resource management.


Kenya has, within the VISION 2030, set up the availability of water and sanitation for all by the year 2030 as one of its national goals. With the Water Sector Reform and the Water Act of 2002, the Kenyan government aimed to reach this ambitious goal by streamlining and strengthening the water sector. Yet in the face of a growing population, climate change, increasing pollution of water bodies and most importantly, with the new constitution and a change to county governments, a new Water Bill 2013 was designed and will hopefully soon be approved by the government. But VISION 2030 will not be achieved without tackling the systematic water losses and at the same time improving sewerage access in both rural and urban areas to ensure the protection of Kenya’s water resources.

Who are the Associations?

The Water Act of 2002 not only set the stage for the reform but also raised expectations that bestWaste water treatment plant in MombasaWater Service Providers (WSPs) will be able to professionalize their utilities. To promoteand support the steps towards a more efficient, effective and transparent water sector the Water Service Providers’ Association (WASPA) was founded. What started with only 3 members in 2002 is now a respectable association with 57 WSPs as members out of a possible 103 WSPs in the country. WASPA’s mission is it to “improve the enabling environment for the members for provision of sustainable, efficient and effective water and sewerage services by way of advocacy, networking, partnerships, capacity building and promotion of best practices”.

In 2003 the private arm of the water sector was in need of a strong voice towards the satelightDrilling riggovernment. The drillers founded the Kenyan Water Industry Association and fought successfully for the removal of 16% VAT charge for drilling operations. Since then, KWIA has widened its sphere of influence and activities and is trying to improve the competitiveness of their members companies, is helping to improve the living standards through responsible development of water resources and last but not least is aiming to be a voice for the water sector to guarantee the effective sustainable use of water in Kenya. As of now, KWIA members are mostly drillers but plans are underway to recruit hydrologists, water engineers, geologists, consultants, students, etc. in order to achieve a broad spectrum and to represent the private water sector as a whole.

What is the Role of the Associations?

Associations play a unique role in the sector. On one hand they represent their members and lobby towards the governmental organizations and authorities but on the other hand the government can and should use the power and network of the associations for the transmission of information to water consumers.

Lobby work is especially important with the coming in of the new county governments. Water and sanitation services have been devolved to county governments and the role of WASPA and KWIA in coordinating member activities is in sharp focus, especially with the central government’s stated desire to amalgamate water utilities that do not perform. Devolution has also brought with it some new challenges, e.g. some county governments plan to provide water services directly without involving existing WSPs or by buying rigs. Already a number of them, led by Machakos, have included in their budgets the purchase of water extraction machinery. What impact this is going to have remains to be seen, but it is clear that WASPA’s and KWIA’s role will be crucial in safeguarding the interests of members and ultimately the consumers. KWIA is very concerned about this development and is at the moment developing a position paper that will address this issue and which will be presented to the Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Water & Natural Resources.

Though a modern association focusses not only on advocacy and lobby work but also on implementation of services, capacity building and financial sustainability. WASPA and KWIA have been working together to improve their internal capacities and to reach the above mentioned attributes with the financial support from Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, through the SWAP-bfz (Strengthen Water Associations Partnership) Project. The bfz gGmbH is partnering with both associations and is developing demand oriented services, is building capacities through trainings and workshops, implementing a transparent and effective advocacy strategy and supports the development of a sustainable budget for both associations.

Data and information management is another important task in which associations need to get involved. WASPA and KWIA meet every 2 months with important stakeholders like NEMA, WRMA, MEW&NR, WASREB, City Council, KEWI and others. Those meetings are organized as round table events and focus less on “observing protocol” but more on the definition of next steps and most importantly on the identification of solutions to the problems. Topics discussed reach from licensing issues and high maintenance costs to nonrevenue water and to the lack of reliable data. Some of the challenges and solutions that have been identified in those meetings were then designed as pilot projects with the goal that other stakeholders are able to use the knowledge and lessons learned from it (Peer-to- Peer Approach).

Pilot Projects

Energy Audits (WASPA)

The energy costs of the WSPs have been averaging from 35 up to 50 % of the total operating whiteH.E. Mrs Margit Hellwig-Boette, former German Embassador to Kenya with local coordinator Eng. Sabine Sibler at the launch of the Energy Audit Summary Report in Nairobi, 2012costs. Inevitably, these costs have been a threat to sustainability and have impacted negatively on water, sanitation and sewerage services provision. SWAP-bfz has conducted, together with the Kenyan Association of Manufacturers’ and the Center for Energy Efficiency and Conservation (KAM CEEC) Energy Audits for 29 WSPs. The Audit Report suggested ways of improving Energy Efficiency through tariff migration, power factor correction and lighting retrofit, as well as using energy-efficient pumps and motors. After receiving their audit report, 24 have implemented the quick measures and are able to safe between 5.000,-KSh to 200.000,-KSh per month on electricity costs. The report also suggested suitable Renewable Energy alternatives such as mini-hydro, solar pumps and lighting, etc.

The report was enthusiastically embraced by the WASPA members audited, with highly impressive results. For instance, the Thika Water and Sewerage Company was able to save KSh. 2,235,600 from their annual electricity bill within a year of implementing the recommendations. Such savings can be ploughed back to increase connections, hire additional staff, and generally improve upon service delivery. Other WSPs are following suite, with focus on increasing energy efficiency and investing in renewable energy. Thika is in the process of installing a mini-hydro station that is expected to further increase the savings made on energy consumption and, through ring-fencing will be able to connect 10.000 households within the course of 2 years. SWAP-bfz on behalf of WASPA is collaborating with other programs and institutions interested in helping WSPs to implement further measures. It is now a government requirement that any facility consuming a minimum 180,000 kilowatts per year be audited for energy efficiency every two years. WASPA has been training its members on ways of adhering to the guidelines developed on this for the benefit of consumers.


Water losses and the monitoring and maintenance of the infrastructure for WSPs has been a challenge. The idea is that a fully GIS mapped water utility with 100% metering and leak detection capabilities delivers more reliable data and therefore should reduce its non-revenue water (NRW). While some water utilities have succeeded in reducing NRW levels to 35% down from 50% five years ago, further reductions are hampered by a lack of in-depth insight in the technical and/or commercial nature of the losses as well as the physical location of these losses.

In this regard, WASPA & SWAP-bfz began a pilot project in April 2013 at the WSP in Kericho to quantify, locate and reduce NRW losses within a pilot zone through a ‘smart’ metering programme and an interface (so called ‘dashboard’) between the GIS and billing systems. The project is developing a cost effective scalable NRW (WaSH-GIS) Module using mapping, dashboard visualizations, automatic meter reading and smartphone technology as a pilot. The NRW (WaSH-GIS) Module will be accessible through a local area network web.

By then end of 2013 the test phase will be completed and if successful, the lessons learned, challenges, benefits, etc. will be shared with WASPA members in peer-to-peer meetings that will be jointly organized with the WSP in Kericho.

Borehole Mapping in Kajiado

The idea here is to collect and manage reliable data. KWIA & SWAP-bfz piloted a GIS mapping of boreholes in Kajiado County with a view to allow drillers access data electronically quickly, efficiently and with a large number of attributes. All the data was mapped using all required attributes as they appear in the Borehole Completion Record that is submitted to the WRMA. Recently, Wajir County made a request to Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development. There are many GIS mapping projects under way in Kenya but there seems
to be a lack of proper managing all this important information. KWIA tries to fill this lack by defining a project where WRMA and KWIA can monitor and manage the data together. In November 2013, a meeting took place between WRMA, Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development, Dutch GIS outfit AKVO, Water CAP SWAP-bfz and KWIA to discuss how Wajir County boreholes could be mapped. This project is still in the initial stages but will hopefully get started early 2014.

The work of associations is manifold, complex and at times challenging. They need to represent their members as well as analyze the best scenario for the water sector, which at times, differs. They need not only focus on the present but also have an understanding of the future challenges and align their strategies accordingly. Both, WASPA and KWIA have compiled strategic plans and aside from the aspects already mentioned in this article, both associations focus also on the next generation. Together with the Kenyan Water Institute (KEWI) new curricula are presently developed to better prepare the students of KEWI for the work at drilling fields and water

Associations are not the ultimate solution to all the problems in the water sector but by creating synergies with governmental authorities, academia and consumers, they can be a valuable addition in reaching Kenya’s ambitious goal of VISION 2030.

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Current Issue: Africa Water & Sanitation & Hygiene March-April 2017 Vol.12 No.2