Watershed Kenya

In Kenya the programme commenced in 2016 with interventions at the National Government level and two counties namely Kajiado and Laikipia.

Introduction: Watershed Kenya

The Watershed programme in Kenya commenced in 2016  with interventions in Kajiado and Laikipia county regions and at the national government. The programme works in partnership of  five local Public Benefits Organizations (PBOs) namely, Centre for Social Planning & Administrative Development (CESPAD), Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF), Kenya Water and Sanitation Civil Society Network (KEWASNET), Neighbours Initiative Alliance (NIA) and Kenya Water for Health Organization (KWAHO). In Kenya, CSOs are officially and legally known as Public Benefits Organizations (PBOs), in line with the Public Benefits Organizations Act of 2013. Therefore where the term CSO is used herein it refers to PBOs in line with the Act.

Key Objectives of Watershed Kenya

The following are the key objectives for this programme impact statement.

  • To profile key changes realized by Watershed programme in Kenya between 2016 to 2019.
  • To share good practices/lessons with other related Programmes/stakeholders for potential scale-up and/or targeted improvements in the water sector.
  • Encourage implementing partners to identify highlighted key milestones to develop in-depth success stories and/or case studies for shared learning internally and externally.
  • To inform a potential phase 2 of Watershed programme.

A summary of key focus issues and programme areas amongst Watershed Kenya partners

In relation to the universal target of attaining sustainable and clean water for all by 2030, Watershed Kenya programme, takes this challenge by putting lobby and advocacy as one of the key pillars to achieve this result. According to the Kenya Demographic and household survey (KDHS 2014), access to improved water sources in Kenya is currently at 63%, while sanitation lags behind at  30%. In rural Kenya, around 53% of the population source water from unimproved sources, and over a third of the country population spend thirty minutes or more to reach their water source.  Above statistics poses a great challenge in achieving clean sanitation and water for all.

The Kenya vision 2030 aims to achieve full access to water and sanitation for all. Progress has been made on access to water, but there is still a major gap towards achieving full access by 2030 and there has been limited to no progress made towards achieving the sanitation targets. Weak allocation planning and implementation of WRM regulations as well as reclamation and conversion of wetlands for agricultural development, human settlement and industrial development are among the biggest threats to the sustainable management of Kenya’s water resources. The table below provides a selected number of indicators on the current status of WASH and WRM

Indicator Categorization Status 2013/14 Goals 2015 (NWSS) Goals 2030 (Vision 2030)
Water coverage* Urban 53 % 80 % 100 %
Rural 49 % 75 % 100 %
Sewerage* Urban 16 % 40 % 100 %
Rural 0 % 10 % 100 %
NRW* Urban & rural 42 % < 30 % 25 %
Cost coverage* Urban & rural 100 % O + M 100 % O + M Full cost coverage
Sanitation coverage*** Urban 70,1 % 77,5 % 100 %
Rural 64,5 % 72,5 % 100 %
Permitting by WRMA** Surface water 60% n/a n/a
Ground water 31% n/a n/a
Pollution control** # of identified effluent dischargers 128 n/a n/a
# of effluent dischargers with permits 8 n/a n/a
WRUAs** # established 571 n/a n/a
Sub-catchment management plans** # of SCMPs established 320 n/a n/a
* Source WASREB (2015) Impact Report 8, ** Source WRMA (2015) Performance Report 4, *** MWI (2016) Annual Water Sector Review 2014/15


The water sector in Kenya has undergone substantial governance reforms in the last two decades and will continue to do so for years to come. The Kenya Water Act (2002) introduced a clear separation of policymaking, regulation and service delivery functions. Following the new dispensation of the 2010 constitution, the water sector is currently undergoing devolution of water resources management and service delivery functions to the county level. The stakes for national agencies and county governments from the future legal framework are very high and have stalled enactment of the new Water Act. This has resulted in a lack of clarity on and contestation of roles and responsibilities of public agencies in an already highly fragmented water sector landscape.

The current performance of water and sanitation service delivery indicates poor governance and poor responsiveness across all levels of the water sector, which has been confirmed through available assessments, reports and key informant interviews. CSOs have largely focussed on filling the resulting service delivery gaps, especially in rural areas. In consequence, only a few CSOs have the required experience and capacities to advocate for systemic changes at county and national level for sustainable and effective management of water services, resources and the environment.

Based on a tentative analysis on the status of WASH services, the level of water stress and contestation, the enabling environment and the potential to leverage the outcomes of the programme based on the existence of potential partners the Watershed strategic partners selected Kajiado and Laikipia counties and the related catchment areas as geographical focus areas for the local activities of the programme.

In Kenya, the Watershed programme is being implemented in two counties. Kajiado and Laikipia Counties.

Kajiado County

Kajiado sits on an area of 21,901 square kilometres and borders Nakuru, Nairobi and Kiambu to the north, Narok to the west, Makueni and Machakos to the east and Taita-Taveta and Tanzania to the south. It has five sub-counties namely Kajiado Central, Kajiado North, Kajiado East, Kajiado West and Kajiado South.

Kajiado has a population of 1,117,840 (2019 Kenya Census).  Access to safe water in Kajiado county is at 66.2%. Generally, the water is from community boreholes with 47.5% of the respondents reporting that the water is available throughout the year while 35.2% reporting that the water availability is unpredictable. The survey showed that women (91.1%) and girls (5.4%) are primarily responsible for fetching water with a mean distance to water source being 2.2 kilometres and the maximum being 20 kilometres. Kajiado County lies mainly in the semi-arid region, where water is retained in sandy riverbeds. Communities scoop these sandy beds and collect water. Due to the high cost of sinking boreholes, only a few have been done leaving the larger population remains underserved. Management of these boreholes has also been a challenge due to limited capacities.

In regards to Integrated Water resources management, a study conducted by CESPAD, NIA and Wetlands  International (2017) designate that there is inadequate participation by the community when it comes to WASH and WRM projects in the county. This is attributed to poor knowledge sharing, lack of capacity and awareness creation as well as weak social inclusion mechanisms used by WASH and WRM actors in the County. The baseline survey also noted that the primary players on water projects in Kajiado County were civil society organizations and government (County and national). Table 3.11 indicates that 36% of the respondents felt that NGOs play a key role in the implementation of water projects. On the other hand, 26% said the government plays a very significant role in the implementation of WASH and WRM projects. It was very clear that women, youth and PWDs are not fully involved in the water-related projects despite the fact that they are key stakeholders who should take lead in the implementation of the projects.

Laikipia County

Laikipia County is one of the 14 counties within the Rift Valley region and one of the 47 counties in the Republic of Kenya. It borders Samburu County to the North, Isiolo County to the North East, Meru County to the East, Nyeri County to the South East, Nyandarua County and Nakuru County to the South West and Baringo County to the West.
50% of residents in Laikipia use improved sources of water, with the rest relying on unimproved sources. Use of improved sources is slightly higher in male-headed households at 52% as compared with female-headed households 48% using it. Laikipia East constituency has the highest share of residents using improved sources of water at 65%. That is twice Laikipia North constituency, which has the lowest share using improved sources of water. In matters Sanitation, 68% of residents in Laikipia County use improved sanitation, while the rest use unimproved sanitation. Use of improved sanitation is higher in male-headed households at 71% as compared with female-headed households at 64%. According to 2016 study done on two sub-counties in Laikipia, Laikipia East and Laikipia West, roughly 25% of sample respondents, that represent the two sub-counties, indicated that they actively participate in IMRM and WASH activities.

Furthermore, Participation in county programs on WASH and IMRM by the public remains very low with only 11% of the respondents having participated in county-related WASH/ IWRM activities so far and 89% have not participated in any county.

Watershed Chapter in Kenya is managed by four consortium members. Namely SIMAVI,  Akvo, KEWASNET and Wetlands International. In the two counties of Kajiado and Laikipia, there are also various implementing partners who are responsible for capacity building, awareness, lobby and advocacy.

Consortium Partners

SIMAVI  Simavi is the lead consortium partner in Kenya. Under the Watershed Programme, it will lead the activities related to creating leverage and find additional funding for the programme.

KEWASNET The Kenya Water and Sanitation Civil Societies Network (KEWASNET) is a national membership organization formed in 2007 consisting of Civil Society Organizations working in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene sector. Its main mission is to promote good governance in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector.

Wetlands International  Wetlands International Africa endeavours to meet the challenges facing the world by protecting the environment, communities, habitat restoration and conservation of biodiversity, sustainable water management, climate change adaptation, emergence and effectiveness of a green economy among others.

Akvo Foundation leads monitoring, evaluation and learning activities for the project. Akvo introduced technology solutions in the project to capture project data and information sharing. It is also responsible for supporting landscape partners in their efforts towards process documentation and to generate reliable evidence for advocacy.

Implementing Partners

Neighbours Initiatives Alliance (NIA) Is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) based in Kajiado Town that facilitates community empowerment, mainly through capacity strengthening/ knowledge transfer, influencing and brokering useful linkages.


Centre for Social Planning & Administrative Development (CESPAD) Under integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), CESPAD shapes and influences communities  (individuals/stakeholders and their institutions and groups) perception, attitude and behaviour to realize good governance and best practice in the water sector.

Kenya Water for Health Organization (KWAHO) - explicitly prioritizes the components of leaving no one behind in water resource management and service delivery including management plans, budget and standards. KWAHO, therefore, uses a Human Rights-Based Approach methodological tool as a concrete way for improving governance and dialogue in Water resource management.

Water governance can be improved by ensuring that sector institutions fulfil their roles and responsibilities effectively and efficiently or by adjusting the sector framework in a way that assigns responsibilities in a way that allows for improved WASH services and sustainable water management. To facilitate the development of Watershed’s ToC, the following sections, therefore, describe the roles and responsibilities of public institutions with stakes in WASH and WRM at the national and local level. Moreover, the non-state actors in the Kenyan water sector are analysed. On this basis, Annex 3 provides a simplified visual mapping of the relationships of these stakeholders.

National authorities and central government institutions 

  • Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MWI) is responsible for policy development, sector-wide coordination, and overall monitoring and supervision. It is charged with ensuring effective water and sewerage services and promoting the sustainable development of resources for agricultural, commercial, industrial, energy and other uses. The Ministry further leads the overall sector investments planning and resource mobilisation. The Water Act 2002 stipulates that MWI also appoints the Board of Directors of the main water institutions including WASREB, WSTF, WRMA and the Water Service Boards. It remains to be seen which appointments will be subject to the mandate of MWI under a new water act. Sanitation policy is in the hands of the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation (MoPHS). To harmonise the institutional framework for sanitation MWI and the MoPHS have developed a common Water Supply and Sanitation Concept with clearly defined sanitation targets.
  • The Water Services Regulatory Board (WASREB) is the national institution within the water sector charged with the responsibility of regulating water services. The powers and functions of WASREB include among others prescribing national standards for the provision of water services, tariff setting, setting licence conditions, accrediting water service providers, enforcement of compliance, maintaining a national database and information system for water services, reporting to the public annually, establishing consumer groups and monitoring the progressive realisation of the rights to water services. Under the pending Water Bill WASREB will be transitioned into the Water Services Regulatory Authority (WSRA), with an extended mandate to ensure effective sector regulation.
  • The Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA): as a state corporation in the water resources sub-sector of the Ministry has the following key functions:
  • National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) is established under the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act No. 8 as the principal instrument of government for the implementation of all policies relating to the environment. While WRMA is responsible for permitting NEMA steps in, in case water bodies are polluted.
  • The Water Services Trust Fund (WSTF): is a Kenyan State Corporation created as a part of the reform of the Kenyan water sector. It has been mandated by the Water Act 2002 to finance the poor and underserved communities in water and sanitation services as well as stressed catchment areas to improve the water resources management.
  • Kenya Water Towers Agency (KWTA)  was established to co-ordinate and oversee the protection, rehabilitation, conservation, and sustainable management of the country’s water towers. The Agency also coordinates and oversees the recovery and restoration of forestlands, wetlands and biodiversity hotspots. It further has the responsibility of promoting the implementation of livelihood programs in the water towers in accordance with natural resource conservation laws.

Local Authorities and public institutions 

The demarcation of geographical responsibilities in the Kenyan water sector is different for WRM and WASH services. Water resources are managed according to six catchment areas with respective sub-regions or -basins. WASH services, on the other hand, are the responsibility of county governments. In consequence government institutions have been established both with reference to catchment and at county levels.

Public Institutions at Catchment Level

  • Water Service Boards (WSBs) – Under Water Act 2002, the water services boards are responsible for the efficient and economical provision of water services authorised by the licence. Water services are provided by the agent(s) of the Board.
  • Catchment Area Advisory Committees (CAAS):  Their role is to advise WRMA at the regional level, being the key means through which WRMA delivers is mandated concerning water resources conservation, use and apportionment; the grant, adjustment, cancellation or variation of any permit; and any other matters pertinent to the proper management of water resources.
  • Water Resource User Associations (WRUAs): Wruas are the key stakeholder engagement mechanism in water resources management. They are established by users at sub-catchment level with a legally protected role to participate in developing and implementing sub-catchment management plans, to resolve water-related conflicts, as well as being consulted in licensing processes.


The Watershed programme promotes “ evidence based advocacy” for improved WASH services and WRM. All data collected within the programme are directed towards building evidence that supports lobby and advocacy initiatives in the projects. Data collection in Watershed India was a continuous process where both Secondary and Primary data was collected, collated, analysed and disseminated to further the project advocacy objectives.

After the data gaps were identified in the secondary data review, additional information about the selected parameters for evidence building was collected through primary level data collection.

Advocacy Issue Link to the open data
Understanding the status of citizen participation in Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Laikipia County Randomly sampled data collected in Laikipia East and West about levels of citizen participation in advocacy issues about IWRM/WASH in Laikipia County
Water Service Provider Data collected in Laikipia County is part of The World Bank's core indicators in measuring sustainability, service level and functionality of rural water supply. Household data collected in Laikipia county used for measuring World Banks global core indicators for Rural Water Supply

Household data collected in Laikipia county used for measuring World Banks global core indicators for Rural Water Supply

Transparency and visibility. The goal of this project was to use Akvo Tools to track status and budget expenditure of water projects implemented in  Kajiado County


Advocacy Issue Link to the open data
Understand the status of community participation levels in WRM and WASH projects and identify advocacy issues in Kajiado County Baseline data collected to understand status of community participation on WASH and IRWM in Kajiado County.
Aggregating all Kajiado Water Point Data in understanding the present count of all water sources in Kajiado County. Both functional and non-functional. Water Point data in Kajiado County as per 2018
Pilot to test water quality testing kit caddisfly in knowing fluoride levels of waterpoints in Kajiado County Fluoride water quality data of Water Points in Kajiado County. A pilot exercise
Transparency and visibility. The goal of this project was to use Akvo Tools to track status and budget expenditure of water projects implemented in  Kajiado County Data contains water projects currently implemented in Kajiado county. The goal of collecting this data is to track contract sum and project implementation status of water projects given the estimated budget of the water


Please find below the latest project updates from team members of the Watershed Kenya consortium.