The following references are some of the key legal and policy framework and instruments that lay foundation to the governing of water services and water resources management within the reforms in water sectors in Kenya.


i) The Constitution of Kenya

The Constitution of Kenya is very clear that every Kenyan citizen has a right[1] to clean and safe water in adequate amounts.

  • Entrenches water as a constitutional right by establishing a right to “reasonable standards of sanitation” and “clean and safe water in adequate quantities” and places obligation on the government to take steps to progressively realize this right.
  • Creates a system of devolved government with a two-tier system of government comprising of the national and county government;
  • Provides for the water resource (“water catchment areas”, “all rivers”, lakes and other water bodies) to be vested in and be held by national government in trust for the people of Kenya and be administered on their behalf by the National Land Commission.
  • Places responsibility to manage water resources to national government, but the responsibility to provide water supply and sanitation services to county government. The function of ‘public investment’ is allocated to national government but, at the same time, county government has the responsibility for ‘public works’.


ii) The Sessional Paper No. 1 of 1999 on National Policy on Water Resources Management and Development

Availability of water resources in Kenya are on the decline[2]. For example, the per capita fresh water supply was 647 m3 which was projected to fall below 500 m3, a situation which classify Kenya as water stressed; the per capita water storage of surface water has reduced from 11.4 m3 in 1969 to about 4.3m3 in 1999. Under these circumstances, the Government of Kenya has reaffirmed the importance for sound water resources management and sustainable development in its policies.

The 1999 National Policy on Water Resources Management and Development and the National Development Plan (2002-2008) lay great emphasis on the value of water towards the attainment of the country’s development aspirations and the Millennium Development Goals. Water should be managed as a scarce resource with social, economic, ecological and political values.

Kenya’s vision is that of achieving sustainable management and development of the country’s water resources as a basis for poverty alleviation and promotion of socio-economic development.

The Sessional Paper No. 1 of 1999 on National Policy on National Water Resources Management and Development provides the policy direction to address the challenges in water as a natural resource. The policy directions include:

  • Treat water as social and economic good
  • Preservation, conservation and protection of the available water resources
  • Sustainable, rational and economical allocation of water resources;
  • Supplying adequate amounts of water meeting acceptable standards for various needs
  • Ensuring safe wastewater disposal for environmental processes.
  • Developing sound and sustainable financial system, for effective and efficient water resources management, water supply and water borne sewage collection, treatment and disposal.

The overall principles adopted in the formulation of the National Water Resource Management Strategy are:

  • To achieve equitable access to water, that is, equity of access to water services, to the use of water resources, and to the benefits from the use of water resources.
  • To achieve sustainable use of water by making progressive adjustments to water use with the objective of striking a balance between water availability and legitimate water requirements, and by implementing measures to protect water resources.
  • To achieve efficient and effective water use for optimum social and economic benefit.


Specific principles adopted are:

  • Water is regarded as an indivisible national asset. The national Government will act as the custodian of the nation’s water resources and its powers in this regard will be exercised as a public trust.
  • Water required to meet basic human needs and to maintain environmental sustainability will be guaranteed as a right, whilst water use for all other purposes will be subject to a system of administrative authorizations.
  • The responsibility and authority for water resource management will be progressively decentralized by the establishment of suitable regional and local institutions. These will have appropriate community, racial and gender representation.
  • Productive use of water resources so as to improve the living standard of beneficiaries and the economy as a whole.
  • User pays and polluter pays principle.


iii) The New Water Act 2002

The New Water Act 2002 was enacted after the repealed Water Act Cap 372 to introduce legal and institutional reforms in the water sector as also was envisaged in the Sessional Paper No. 1 of 1999 on National Policy on National Water Resources Management and Development. The act recognises and therefore provides a platform for users and beneficiaries of the water resources to participate in decision making.

(“There are proposals to introduce amendments to the New Water Act 2002 through “Water Bill 2012″ harmonize the Act with the Constitution of Kenya, and when passed by Parliament, this may introduce major legal and institutional changes in water sector.”)


iv) The Transfer Plan

The Transfer Plan[3] was gazetted by the Minister for Water and Irrigation to among inter alia, to define in more clearer terms the newly created institutions and their respective mandates as well as transfer of responsibilities under the new Water Act 2002; transfer from the ministry the functions of water management and operations to water services boards and water resource management and regulation to the water resources management authority.


v) Catchment Management Strategy (CMS)

The Water Act 2002 requires the development of Catchment Management Strategies (CMS) for each region which is also a drainage basin.

In addition to other matters, the CMS sets out the principles, objectives, procedures and institutional arrangements of WRMA for the management, use, development, conservation and control of water resources within each catchment.

It is expected that the CMS, as required under Section 15(5) of the Water Act 2002, will provide further elaboration on the institutional arrangements for stakeholder participation, and specifically for WRUA establishment and collaboration.


vi) Water Resources Management Rules[4] 2007 (WRM Rules 2007)

The MWI and WRMA, in collaboration with other stakeholders, prepared a set of regulations in line with the Water Act 2002 which have now been gazetted. Section 10 of the WRM Rules 2007 specifically deals with WRUAs and the relationship between WRMA and WRUAs. Water supply facilities are eligible members of WRUAs. Key points worth noting are:

  • WRUAs obtain legal recognition through the Registrar of Societies or as Trusts and obtain official recognition by registration with WRMA;
  • WRUAs may enter into an MOU with WRMA in which the WRMA may provide administrative, technical and financial support to the WRUA;
  • A WRUA that fails to comply with the MOU may be suspended and/or de-registered by WRMA

In addition, Section 28 states that the WRMA will seek comments from the local WRUA for water permit applications.


vii) National Water Services Strategy and Pro-poor Implementation Plan

This strategy was published by the MWI in 2009 to guide the reforms in the sector, actions of the sector actors and players with respect to water supply and sanitation in the country with specific strategies for supply to the urban areas, rural areas, low-income urban settlements and other vulnerable groups.

In summary, some of the overall goals of the strategy are:

  • Increased sustainable access to safe water from 40% in 2009 to 75% by 2015 in rural areas and reduce the one-way distance to the nearest communal outlet to within 2 km;
  • Reduction of unaccounted for water (UFW) to about 30% by 2015;
  • Recovery of operation and maintenance costs for all water supply and sanitation systems by 2010;
  • Increase collaborations with relevant agencies and institutions to increase access to basic sanitation to 72.5% in rural areas by 2015.


viii) Human Right to Water

A guide prepared by the Ministry of Water and Irrigation for the reforms in the water sector and the right to water which entitles every person to have access to sufficient, affordable water supply and sanitation services of acceptable qualities for hygiene and domestic use.

Further, the guide communicates the commitment of the government to the MDGs and the enabling framework to provide the right to water; and goes ahead to spell the water sector criteria for urban and rural water supply and sanitation linked to human rights.


ix) Water Services Licence

Under section 46 and 47 of the Water Act 2002, WASREB issues licence to a Water Services Board which is valid for 10 years subject to meeting all conditions and is renewable.

Some of the highlights of the licence are the arrangement between WSB and WSPs on delivery of water services; customer management and tariffs; monitoring, reporting and record keeping; dispute resolution procedures and administrative procedures for the licence.


x) Service Provide Agreement(SPA)

WASREB has developed model service provision agreements between WSB and WSPs (category III for public/community systems operated by third parties) under section 51 of the Water Act 2002,.

Some of the highlights of the SPA are the obligations and rights for various parties; performance targets; arrangement on delivery of water services; customer management and tariffs; monitoring, reporting and record keeping; dispute resolution procedures and administrative procedures for the SPA. In the reformed water sector, WUAs who become WSPs are required to sign an SPA with NWSB, and the SPAs to be endorsed by WASREB.


xi) Corporate Governance for Service Providers

For cost effective and efficient management and operation of water services WASREB has developed guidelines and advice on good corporate management under section 47(h) of the Water Act 2002.

Through the guidelines, WASREB communicates clearly on the need for good corporate governance which also satisfies the requirements of the standards set in the Companies Act Cap 486 for the WSPs formed under that Act.

Some of the highlights of these guidelines are roles and functions of the Board and Sub- Committees of the board; composition and appointment of the board; compliance and accountabilities as well as guidelines for evaluation on performance and impact of the board. This is a reference document that can be customized for WUAs as they transform into WSPs according to the Water Act 2002.

xii) Tariff Guidelines

Tariff guidelines are formulated by WASREB under the Water Act 2002. In essence, the guidelines the regulatory approach to setting out tariffs for water services and the methodologies for reviews, approvals and adjustments over time. The guidelines also set out the requirements and procedures that WSBs and WSPs must follow for tariff adjustments.


xiii) Water Quality Guidelines

The standards of quality of water supplied for domestic use as well as the quality of effluent discharges to receiving water bodies are set by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS). Following these standards, WASREB has prepared guidelines for drinking water quality and effluent monitoring procedures.

In addition, the guidelines create awareness among those charged with responsibilities in water services (and sanitation/sewerage) on water quality monitoring requirements to ensure standards are not compromised; also guidelines to communicate a process not only to inform consumers about water quality information but also to access the information from the Water Services Providers.

The licence and Service Provision Agreement (SPA) oblige the licencee and the service provider to ensure provision of potable water and safe treatment and disposal of waste water.


xiv)? Kenya Vision 2030

Kenya Vision 2030 is the new country