Problems of poor water supply and sanitation in uncontrolled residential developments in urban centres


Due to the rapid population growth and uncontrolled residential development witnessed in most developing countries, the global urban environment is seriously being degraded in terms of service delivery (UN-Water 2007). Water supply and sanitation are the public utilities that have been worst hit by this scenario. These facilities are necessary commodities in household and municipal activities (FAO, 2008).Though continuity of water supply and sanitation is taken for granted in most developed countries, it is a severe problem in many developing countries, where some times water is only provided for a few hours every day or a few days a week (UN-Water,2007).Water is intrinsically interconnected with the MDGs and basic sanitation was added to the catalogue at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. ‘To halve by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation’ is one of the numerical and time-bound targets defined for the MDGs. (WSSD, 2002)

In today’s world of 6 billion people (World Bank 2010), providing this water and sanitation facilities is already a serious challenge, straining management systems and institutions. Water supply and sanitation in Indonesia is characterized by poor levels of access and service quality. Over 40 million people lack access to an improved water source and more than 110 million of the country’s 240 million population has no access to improved sanitation. With only 2% access to sewerage in urban areas is one of the lowest in the world among middle-income countries. (WHO, 2010)

In Africa, water shortages are related to both under-development of potentially available water resources and their uneven distribution. This is coupled up with an unrelenting population growth rate of 3 % per year which is a major factor in on-going water and sanitation problems. Water supply services in Zambia’s peri-urban areas vary widely from one settlement to another even within the same town. Water supply systems have been poorly maintained in the last 20 years because local authorities and ministry departments as providers have absconded their capacity and professionalism to operate and sustain these services efficiently and effectively (Nwasco, 2005).

Kenya has experienced tremendous population increases in the last 40 years. The annual population growth in Kenya was last reported at 2.63% in 2010 (World Bank, 2010). In 2009, it was indexed at 2.58% according to a World Bank Report of 2010. The annual population growth rate in Kenya was reported at 2.58% in 2008 (World Bank, 2011).It is important to note that urban growth has been at the rate of five per cent in the last forty years. In 1963, the urban population in Kenya was low at 8%. Currently 34% of the population lives in the urban centres. Projections show that by 2030, 50% of Kenyans will be living in the urban areas. (UN-Habitat, 2008)

A major recent United Nations report on the state of water and sanitation in the world’s cities found that water distribution systems in many cities in the developing world are inadequate, typically serving the city’s upper- and middle-class neighbourhoods but not rapidly expanding settlements on the urban fringe (UN-HABITAT, 2010). The large projected increases in the numbers of urban residents in the developing world over the next 20–30 years implies that municipal authorities responsible for these sectors face very serious challenges in the years ahead. Improving public sanitation is another major urban environmental challenge that needs to be immediately addressed in virtually all cities in the developing world. Using these criteria, UN-HABITAT’s new report Water and Sanitation in the World’s Cities, estimates that in Africa as many as 150 million urban residents representing up to 50% of the urban population do not have adequate water supplies, while 180 million, or roughly 60% of people in urban areas lack adequate sanitation.

Facing present growth of urban population, it is increasingly difficult to find and utilize new sources of water necessary to satisfy growing water demand. For the poor, the residents of peri-urban and squatter areas, an ultimate poverty, the poverty of lacking clean water, is a result. To remove this kind of poverty should be a first priority target for all people and, especially, for people dealing with water and sanitation management in urban areas.(Niemczynowicz, 1999)

According to Cohen, 2006 over the last 20 years, many urban areas have experienced dramatic growth, as a result of rapid population growth and as the world’s economy have been transformed by a combination of rapid technological and political change. Around 3 billion people-virtually half of the world’s total population-now live in urban settlements. And while cities command an increasingly dominant role in the global economy as centers of both production and consumption, rapid urban growth throughout the developing world is seriously outstripping the capacity of most cities to provide adequate services for their citizens. Over the next 30 years, virtually all of the world’s population growth is expected to be concentrated in urban areas in the developing world. The challenges of achieving sustainable urban development will be particularly formidable in Africa.

Gleick, 1998 says that more than a billion people in the developing world lack safe drinking water- an amenity those in the developed world take for granted. Nearly three billion people live without access to adequate sanitation systems necessary for reducing exposure to water-related diseases. The failure of the international aid community, nations and local organizations to satisfy these basic human needs has led to substantial, unnecessary and preventable human suffering.

Access to sanitation

Only 27% of the urban populations and 32% of the rural population in Kenya had access to private and improved sanitation. In the urban setting 51% of the populations shared pit latrines. In the rural setting open defecation was still practiced by 18% of the population. Only 50% of the Kenyan population within the services areas of 55 (WSPs) had access to improved sanitation facilities. Only 23% of the residents of Nairobi city had access proper sanitation facilities (African Ministers’ Council on Water, 2010)

JICA in 1998 estimated total City waste generation at 1530tons a day of which 82.8% from the households. This represents 1267 tons per day generated from domestic and residential set ups. This translated to 0.59 kg of waste generated by every individual at average in the city. The slum areas being the most congested and densely populated produced more waste than any other residential setting in the city. From the UNEP/NEMA’s 2011, the residential waste generation per capita in the city had increased from the previous 0.59kg to 0.61 kg.

Institutional frameworks and role of stakeholders in water and sanitation sector

The waters sector has several institutions charged with the responsibility of ensuring adequate water and sanitation services to the entire citizens of the country. These mainly came after the enactment of the Water Act, 2002 which looked forward to;

 The separation of the management of the water resources from the provision of the water services.

 The separation of policy formulation on water issues from the day to day administration and regulation.

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 Decentralization of the functions in the water and sanitation sector to the lower level state organs.

 The involvement of non-governmental entities in the management of water resources.

 The involvement of the non-governmental entities in the provision of water services.

Role of the government

The government has put down many measures and various institutions in the past decade to ensure that the community members and the entire citizen fraternity receive adequate water and sanitation supply in the country. There was the establishment of the Water Sector Reform Secretariat (WSRS) whose responsibility was to cover the transitional gap during the period which the water reforms institutions were being established. Water Services Trust Fund (WSTF) was established in 2004, to provide financial assistance towards capital investment costs in areas lacking adequate facilities which are often inhabited by the poor. The transfer of the central government staff and the assets were realized through the development of the transfer plan of 2005 in which the services were delegated to the (WSBs) and the (WSPs).

The draft National Water Services Strategy (NWSS) for the period 2007/2015 was formulated in June 2007. This paper’s main objective was to realize the goal of the MDG declaration and the goal in the economic blue print Vision 2030 concerning access to safe and affordable water and basic sanitation. NWSS defines access safe water and basic sanitation facilities as both a human right and economic good. The strategy is also aimed at cost recovery by the WSPs to ensure sustainable water and sanitation for the entire populations especially the residents of the poor areas (MoWI, 2007).

The MoWI is the key institution charged with overseeing the water services sector in the country. The ministry has five departments which include Administration and Support Services; Water Services; Water Resources Management; Irrigation, Drainage and Water Storage; Land Reclamation.

The MoWI is responsible for formulation of policies and strategies for water and sewerage services; co-ordination and monitoring of other water institutions in the country and overall investment, planning and resources mobilization in the water and sanitation services sector.

The MPHS is charged with the responsibility of development of sanitation polices in the country and to work in harmony with the MoWI. The ministry as so far developed the Water Supply and Sanitation Concept which as clearly defined the sanitation targets for the entire country and the timelines for their achievements.

Water Services Regulatory Board (WASREB) was established in 2003 to license and supervise WSBs; approve or disapprove the SPAs; develop and negotiate tariff guidelines; set standards and develop guidelines for service provision; and publish results for sector monitoring of the situation in the water and sanitation services provision.

National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) which came into existence in 2002 after the enactment of the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act of 1999 (EMCA, 1999) is charged with the responsibility of promoting integration of environmental considerations into government policies, plans, programmes and projects. In the water services sector NEMA is responsible for the development of water quality regulations to ensure that the water reaching the consumers are of high quality.

The WSBs in each of the eight regions are responsible for the water services provision in the regions of the jurisdiction. The boards are responsible for the development and rehabilitation of water and sewerage facilities for investment planning and implementation.

The WSBs have delegated their duties of provision of the water services to the Water Services Providers (WSPs). The services are delegated and provide through the Services Provision Agreements (SPAs) singed between the WSBs and the WSPs. This is aimed at ensuring high standards of services and good quality water reaching the consumers as established by WASREB.

There are four types of SPAs:

 Category I for medium to large WSPs operative in urban areas – WSPs in this category are limited liability companies owned by one or more local authorities. They provide both water and sewerage services

 Category II for community projects in rural areas – these are community water supplies which are managed by WSPs registered as Water User Associations (WUAs) by the Registrar of Societies. In May 2008 there were 58 SPAs of this kind.

 Category III for private sector providers.

 Category IV for bulk water supply – this is the responsibility of the National Water and Sewerage Company (MoWI & WSRAWSR, 2008)

Community roles

Apart from the above mentioned categories, there are the established informal Small Service Providers (SSPs) which are responsible for the provision of the water services to the rural settlements and the poor urban settings. These usually provide their services through the use of tankers and jerry cans and are usually run by self-help groups, women groups who provide water services to the local level community set ups. It is important to note that there are proposals to formalize water and sanitation services provision in the poor urban and rural areas.

These proposals include the Community Project Cycle which makes funds available for local communities that are willing to comply with minimum service standards and the Urban Poor Concept which has been implemented in some of the poor urban settings under which several water kiosks have been developed to meet sustainability standards (MoWI, 2009).

Role of the NGOS and civil organizations

The civil society has been active in Kenya for last decades mainly through the struggle for various human rights and freedoms. However in the water sector the participation of the various civil rights organizations, community based organizations and non-governmental organizations as well as individual activist in the water and sanitation sector has been limited. In 2007, an umbrella organization of the water services provision in the civil organization, Kenya Water and Sanitation Civil Society Network (KEWASNET), was formed. The main objective of this network was to ensure adequate service delivery in the water sector especially for the poor residents and ensure proper policy implementation in the water services reforms. The network campaigns for the protection of water services provision infrastructure from vandalisms and continuously appeal to the members of the community to be responsible in the use and consumption of the water and sanitation services available. (KEWASNET, 2012).

Causes of inadequate water supply and sanitation

a. Uncompetitive water and sanitation tariffs

The cost of exploiting a water resource depends on whether current extraction rates are sustainable. Water usage is said to be sustainable if the net usage of water now, and in the future will be less than the inflow (Noll,et al.,2000).Tariffs should be based on the full price of water, which includes source development, purchase of raw water, treatment, and distribution costs(McIntosh,2003).

In Kenya, urban water tariffs are high by regional a standard that is $0.46 per m3 as reported by the water services regulatory board (WASREB) in 2007 (WASREB, 2009). According to a survey done by Athi water services board for Nairobi, it is expected that increase in population would translate into increased number of households requiring individual connections for increased water supply coverage thus a huge investment would be vital to facilitate the implementation of the water connections scheme.(AWSB,2011)

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The movement of people in the urban centres have strained the available public utilities and to the worst extent overwhelmed the ability of the responsible institutions to provide such services. In this case most of the responsibilities of the government have been taken up by private institutions usually with little or no supervision by the government. In such circumstances the quality of services has gone down and the commercialization of the public utilities have made them inaccessible for use by the poor citizens (World Bank, 2002).

b. Demographic pressures on water and sanitation management

The Kenyan population currently stands at approximately forty million peoples as per the results of the 2009 population census. The global water supply benchmark is 1000 cubic meters per annum while the Kenya situation currently stands at six hundred and eighty five cubic meters per annum. This is a situation that the Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) has warned is alarming and serious measures need to be put in place to ensure that the country does not grow ―thirsty‖ beyond remedy. The areas hard hit by the acute water shortage are the urban slums. This is contrary to the fact that urban population constitutes more than sixty per cent of the urban population in most urban centre in the country. With these kinds of population the respective government institutions are unable to offer their services to these areas. The rate of urbanisation has been highest in the developing world and Kenya is no exception. In the last decade of the twentieth century the urbanisation growth rate stood at 3.5% in Africa. This is mainly attributed to the high rate of rural urban migration in these developing nations (UN-Habitat, 2003).

With the rapid urbanization and skyrocketing rates of population growth, the developing world continues to bear the burden of inadequate water and sanitation from its population. Rapid urbanization is quickly leading to the development of more informal settlement in the major towns of the developing countries.

c. Inadequate investments and infrastructures

The level of urbanization in Kenya stood at 33.4% in the year 2000 and projections showed that it will hit 50.8% by the year 2020. The annual growth rate is at 3.76%, (UN-Habitat, 2003). The Kenyan urban centres continue to receive high number of immigrants with little or no investment in the housing sector. This has led to the continuous growth in the number of the informal settlements. This coupled with the high foreign debts and the world’s economic recession development programmes have been crippled in many ways thus the poor settlements in the urban centres continue to languish in poverty.

d. Depletion of natural water resources for urban supply

Urbanization goes hand in hand with an increase in population density, which means that more people have to rely on existing water sources. New sources are also difficult to find, and/or expensive in exploitation (Bart et al, .2009).Many cities have come to the limits of water availability from natural sources. This has been discussed by Fang et al. (2007) through the Concept of Water Resources Constraint Forces (WRCF). Boreholes and wells are also very important in supplementing available water for consumption. Unfortunately, they are endangered by increasingly being depleted and not renewed .This is particularly rampart in urban areas, where due to presence of roads and buildings; infiltration capacity of the soil is hampered to a minimum which further decreases the capacity for ground water renewal (Bart et al, .2009) endangering existence of wells and boreholes.

Effects of inadequate water and sanitation supply

a. Health impacts of inadequate water and sanitation

Traditionally, improvements in water supply and sanitation have been promoted as essential public health measures to improve the population’s health status. If universal piped and regulated water supplies were to be achieved, about 7.6 billion episodes of diarrhoea could be prevented annually, a 70% reduction. In a population-based case-control study in the metropolitan areas of Porto Alegre and Pelotas in southern Brazil children dying in infancy from diarrhoea were compared to neighbourhood controls in terms of several social and environmental variables. Factors found to be significantly associated with an increased risk of death from diarrhoea included the non-availability of piped water, the absence of a flush toilet, residence in a poorly built house and household overcrowding. When adjustment was made for confounding variables and the mutual confounding effect of the environmental variables on each other, the only association that remained statistically significant was that with the availability of piped water. Compared to those with water piped to their house, those without easy access to piped water were found to be 4.8 times more likely to suffer infant death from diarrhoea (95% confidence interval 1.7 to 13.8) and those with water piped to their plot but not to their house had a 1.5 times greater (Victoria et al., 1988).

b. Socio-economic effects of inadequate water and sanitation

At the macro-economic level, lack of clean water and sanitation has a direct impact on labour productivity. In 1991, when Peru suffered a cholera epidemic, apart from the thousands of deaths, it was estimated that the Peru GDP lost about $232 million in just one year. If the international community hopes to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 7, which includes the target of halving the number of people without access to clean water and adequate sanitation by 2015, then the world is going to have to confront the problems of the urban poor (WHO, 2012).

In the poor setting, the time of the day spent on the search has significantly increased in the past decade. This coupled with the socio-cultural practiced has transferred the burden of fetching water to the poor women and the girls in the poor settings. In 2007, it was estimated that women and girls fetched water 4-6 times a day in most Kenyan cities. This translated to 112 minutes which the poor households’ settings spent in search of water per day. This usually increased to 200 minutes during the times of scarcity. 2006 (WHO / UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) 2010).


There is need for adequate government and other stakeholder involvement in the goal of ensuring that every member of the society has adequate access to water and sanitation services supply. This is in tandem with the millennium development goals that looks forward to ensuring that everybody has access to safe water in the right quality and quantity.

Empirically it was found that the problem of inadequate water supply and sanitation was mainly propagated due to increased population in the area as the chief main cause. Findings also show that uncontrolled urbanization exists on massive scale and strangulates efforts to supply water and sanitation since it makes it difficult for NCWSC to map out strategy for effective water and sanitation service delivery. Results from the study enable us to understand the broader context of issues affecting urban water and sanitation supply. The overall implication of the study is for all stakeholders to play an active role in abide to address water and sanitation problem.

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 The government should venture into the provision of water to subsidize the strains the water service sector faces in the area

 A solid waste management system should be put in place to ensure proper management of the domestic waste in the area.

 Government should put in place campaigns for pro-environment activities that ensure sustainability such as responsible use of the water resources, re-use, reduction and recycling of resources to avoid wastages and protect the environment from degradation.

 The responsible government institutions for example the ministry of Public Health and Sanitation should ensure enforcement of the public health policies and laws to protect the people from exposure to hazards such as those experienced in the open dumpsites within the area.

 The ministry of Environment and Natural Resources should ensure proper and adequate enforcement of EMCA regulation to control the rate of environmental degradation.

Private sector and NGOs

  • Should act as watchdogs to ensure that the environmental laws are adhered to and champion for the rights of the local residents especially in the sector of water and sanitation.
  • Should continue to provide for the water and sanitation services in the area and source for more funds for these services to help the government in service provision.
  • They should empower the local residents through seminars, workshops and trainings on the issues of responsible use of the available resources to ensure sustainability.
  • Engage the women, youth and self-help groups in the management and preservation of the environment and its resources to ensure sustainability.
  • Organize community outreach and extension programmes with the local residents to sensitize them on the issues of adequate and proper management of domestic waste.
  • Engage the residents in the waste recycling activities to ensure the least quantity of waste is left for dumping.

Community members

  • Engage in sustainable and responsible use of the water resources to reduce wastage and cases of shortages.
  • Encourage one another to adopt waste management techniques and behaviour to reduce the amount of waste generated from the households,
  • Sort the waste from the household level for easier reuse, reduction and recycling where possible.
  • Engage in water saving campaigns such as slogan like ―Every Drop Counts‖ across the community to sensitize the community members in the need to conserve the water resources.
  • Active engage in and practice pro-environment activities to ensure sustainability. For example tree planting to increase the tree cover of the country thus improving the water catchment capability in the country.
  • Continuously engage and confront the government and various stakeholders in the water and sanitation sector to ensure that the services are offered as stipulated by the government legislations and policies. For example the constitution of Kenya stipulates that water is a human right and thus the government should make sure that each and every citizen has access to it. The residents should engage the government in all the avenues possible to ensure that this is done.


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