‘Transition phase’ water supply interventions in Low-income urban settlements: Kenya
Yolanda Chakava, December 2013 Thesis Abstract:
A multitude of transitional water supply and distribution interventions are continually
piloted in Kenya’s fast-growing urban settlements to meet national and global MDG
targets, yet visible problems persist regardless of the investments made. This research
evaluates the performance of four interventions led by public utilities and nongovernmental
organisations in the low-income settlements of Nairobi, Kisumu and Nakuru counties.
To understand the service improvement received by the residents, this study used qualitative data from interviews and focus group discussions and quantitative data from 1,168 household surveys.
Service level analysis results showed making water more affordable using pre-paid
technology reduced the effective price by 75% and increased consumption per
household by 20 litres per day, resulting in the highest service progress. Improving
water accessibility for the very poor via hosepipe door-step delivery reduced the
burden on women carrying water by 43% although efforts failed to reduce the pricing
structure, limiting the progress. Subsidised ‘first-time’ metered plot connections to
increase the utility customer base experienced shortages in water supply and
reluctance from landlords, restricting development. Despite showing no positive
change, 81% of residents continued to rely on expensive self-supplied boreholes which
were all contaminated.
Although the utilities have made positive strides in service improvement, in the
context of universal service this study has shown that the very poor remain the most
difficult to access, forming the target of discrete interventions that experience
difficulties in influencing a reliable supply, sustained price reduction and/or good
water quality – essentially what is needed most. In investigating the longer-term supply
and demand shortfall, this study concludes that the equitable supply and innovative
distribution of point source groundwater, with a bias for the poorest, could be the
most resilient transitional solution for the utility to promote in the foreseeable future,
out of necessity rather than desire.