KMT Water Research

The Global Water Benchmarking Study For Kenya: Water Resources Management

About This Study

Kenya Markets Trust (KMT) and Gatsby Africa (GA) undertook this study to capture examples of good practice from countries that have successfully transformed aspects of their water sector.

The purpose of the study is to provide a rich source of information for Kenyan water stakeholders to draw upon while developing strategies for strengthening Kenya’s water sector. The study will also inform KMT’s work and how we might bring new ideas and practical recommendations to our partnerships.

This study was undertaken between October 2020 and June 2021. Led by KMT and Gatsby, the study was supported by Aguaconsult, a leading international water consultancy with experience in Africa, South America and Asia. The project team included experts in urban and rural water service delivery and water resources management and called on additional experts with knowledge of the case study countries and specific themes such as sector financing.

KMT provided valuable input to the methodology and country selection led the engagement with sector stakeholders and donors and provided feedback and input into the country analysis and study reports.

Conceptual diagram showing the analytical framework used in the Water Benchmarking Study

Analytical framework used in the study

The framework used in this study considered the two main components, water service delivery and water resources management (WRM), as well as overarching governance that coordinates the two components and creates the enabling environment for the water sector as a whole. Important functions of the system, namely finance and data/ innovation, were also considered in the framework.


KMT would like to acknowledge the Kenyan water stakeholders for their involvement in the study, in particular for providing feedback on the specific issues to focus on and the country selection. This includes Kenya’s Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation, Water Services Regulatory Board (WASREB), Water Resources Authority (WRA), Water Service Providers Association (WASPA), Water Sector Trust Fund (WSTF) and Council of Governors (COG).

We thank Aguaconsult Ltd, the consultancy that undertook this study for KMT and the authors of this thematic report: Harold Lockwood and Dirk Schaefer.

Lastly, we wish to acknowledge Gatsby Africa, our partner and funder, who provided input into the study methodology and who continue to support our work in the water sector.

The study consists of 5 reports

3 thematic reports

Water Service Delivery
Water Resources Management

2 country case studies

Republic of Korea


As part of Kenya Market Trust’s (KMT) ongoing mission to catalyse the transformation of the Kenyan water sector, it commissioned an international study of countries that have successfully transformed parts or aspects of their water sectors.

Examples of good-practice and lessons from what has worked elsewhere will, it is hoped, provide useful insights as to how Kenya can continue to strengthen its water sector.

Focus of the study

The purpose of the benchmarking study is to provide a rich source of information for Kenyan water stakeholders to draw upon while developing strategies for strengthening Kenya’s water sector. The study will also inform KMT’s work and how we might bring new ideas and practical recommendations to our partnerships and interventions.

Following consultation with key sector stakeholders in Kenya, it was agreed to focus on the two main sub-sectors of water service delivery and water resources management (WRM), which is the subject of a parallel report. For each of these two main reports, three thematic areas of interest have been identified as being of most relevance for Kenya in this benchmarking exercise:

Firstly, governance arrangements, both in terms of national intra-sectoral and intra-ministerial relations and the vertical integration between central and decentralised levels of government, particularly considering the strong devolution process in Kenya.

Secondly, experiences with investment planning undertaken in other countries particularly where these have been systematic in nature and looked at long-term costs required to sustain services, as well as the commensurate measures to generate financing, both from public sources through repayable financing as well as attracting private investments.

Lastly, examples where there have been successful innovations in the use of technologies and data production and – as importantly – the use of better data for improved decision making.

In consultation with Kenyan water stakeholders, 14 countries were selected for the benchmarking exercise, as outlined below:

Governance and Decentralisation

It is now widely recognised that, as with inadequate water services, water resources management challenges are often primarily challenges of governance (UNDP, 2006; OECD, 2015). The need for improved governance around water resources arises in part from intrinsic features of the resource – including the multiplicity of values and interests, the non-alignment of hydrological and administrative boundaries, and the public good characteristics of water and associated market failures. Several pressures also increase the need for improved water governance to coordinate and adjudicate between users and policy objectives – including economic and population growth, ecological deterioration and climate change. Added to this, many countries have sought to decentralise water resource management functions to lower levels, with an intention to tailor policy and implementation to local contexts and enhance accountability and transparency. Alongside the pattern familiar from wider decentralisation – whereby responsibilities are often transferred without the required finance or powers to fulfil them – decentralisation of water resources management can multiply and aggravate challenges of coordination between hydrological and administrative boundaries (OECD, 2015).

Despite an array of good practice principles available (OECD, 2015; UNEP, 2018), it is important to recognise that water governance is an inherently political undertaking, and that emphasising technocratic functions such as coordination of water resource responsibilities and uses is unlikely to work, without sensitivity to power asymmetries, vested interests and other political economy considerations (Allen, 2003).


~ UNDP, 2006; OECD, 2015

Finance and Investment Planning

Despite several studies convincingly linking water resources management and economic growth (Brown and Lall, 2006; Grey and Sadoff, 2007; Sadoff et al. 2015), the sector faces numerous challenges attracting and coordinating investment. Key barriers include (OECD, 2016):

  1. High-sunk costs and long payback periods.
  2. Difficulty in evaluating and monetising the full range of risks and benefits, which makes it harder for investors to assess the risk-return profile of prospective investments.
  3. Politicisation of key economic instruments, for example, pricing of water or of externalities such as pollution of water resources.

For Kenya, the financing area of SDG indicator 6.5.1 is the lowest scoring in its 2017 and 2020 self-assessments, and the only area to show no overall progress. The 2020 questionnaire response highlights a number of challenges, including low disbursements for water resources infrastructure; insufficient allocations for WRM functions, both nationally and at basin level; low revenue from water use charges; and absence of ring-fencing of WRA’s revenues for WRM functions (GoK, 2020).

The WRA estimates that it, alone, faced a cumulative net financing gap of KES 6.7 billion in the period 2012/13-2016/17, between budgeted expenditure and disbursed funds from the public fiscus, plus contributions from external partners (WRA, 2020).

This chapter on financing and investment planning contains 3 examples of global good-practice as summarised below.

Technological Innovation, Research and Use of Data

There is broad consensus across the academic literature on water resources management and governance, that innovation, research and data play a crucial role. Although this theme contains several distinct topics, collectively their value lies in enhancing efficiency and synergies, managing trade-offs and uncertainty, and supporting evidence-informed and transparent decisions concerning water (Batchelor 2007; McDonnell, 2008; Goonetilleke and Vithanage, 2017). The multi-scale, multi- objective nature of WRM also speaks to the importance of not only improving different sources and forms of innovation, research and data for WRM in insolation, but bringing them together effectively (McDonnell, 2008).

Several questions under the ‘management instruments’ area, that form part of SDG indicator 6.5.1 assessment, pertain to the collation and use of data and information for different aspects of water resources and their use. Concerns highlighted in Kenya’s 2020 response to the relevant questions broadly align with issues raised during stakeholder discussions, which identified two key areas under this theme where international learning could be valuable: identifying illegal abstraction, and frameworks for data sharing and coordination13.

This chapter on technological innovation, research and use of data contains 2 examples of global good-practice as summarised below.

Key Lessons to Consider for the Kenyan Water Sector

This section provides a summary of the key lessons and insights from the various examples set out in the preceding three chapters as a resource for Kenyan water sector stakeholders as well as other parties interested in water sector strengthening. For convenience these are numbered in alignment with the original section headings and sub-headings.

Read the full study

The Global Water Benchmarking Study For Kenya


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A Dawn of a New Chapter for Kenya Markets Trust

After years of successfully working together as partners with a shared mission of transforming sectors in East Africa, Gatsby Africa, Kenya Markets Trust and Msingi East Africa have decided to integrate and become one entity as of April 01, 2022.

The new integrated entity will be called Gatsby Africa – a philanthropic entity of Lord David Sainsbury and will operate across six sectors in East Africa – Commercial Forestry, Aquaculture, Textiles and Apparel, Livestock, Agricultural Inputs, and Water.

We believe that the ambition and vision of the new organisation, coupled with the breadth of our portfolio, puts us in a strong position to deliver a meaningful level of impact for millions of people in the East African region. It equally strengthens our ability to generate and share our learning with others.

Coming together allows us to leverage the strengths of the three organisations, brings efficiency to how we work, and ensures we have a greater impact in our work.

What does this mean for the work that we have been passionately championing over the years? There will be no changes to the focus and modalities of how we work or our shared commitments – our three existing programmes will continue to operate in the same way they have always done.

We will be launching the new integrated Gatsby Africa organisation on April 01, 2022. By mid-April, we will share with you a link to our new website and official social media handles. However, we will retain our current website for a minimum period of six months, so that our knowledge materials are available to you. We shall be moving these over to our new website so that nothing will be lost.

As an organisation, we are excited about the opportunities that this integration brings for our people, partners and the sectors we work in. We are humbled by the collaboration and good working relationship we have had with all our different stakeholders and look forward to continuing working with you in the new organisation.