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‘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.

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