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Planning for WASH in Arid lands in Kenya: the numbers are scary but might still help

Published on: 15/07/2015

Using numbers in local planning for water resources and services helps stakeholders to make (conflicting) interests clearer and choices more explicit.

From 2013-2014, the Millennium Water Alliance (MWA) has worked with around 160,000 people in the arid lands of Kenya to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and build resilience to climate change. Four MWA member institutions – CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Food for the Hungry, and World Vision – implemented the programme with US$ 8 million from USAID and OFDA and an additional US$ 1.83 million in matching funds. MWA member IRC and Dutch partners Aqua for All, Acacia Water, and Akvo provided support with innovative approaches in water supply planning for multiple uses, hydrogeology, and monitoring. One area of work has been to support local stakeholders with area based planning of the water services. In each of the four counties Turkana, Moyale, Marsabit and Wajir a relative small pilot area was selected of approximately 40 by 50 kilometres following as much as possible the natural landscape and water sheds.

A key element of the area based planning method has been to try to determine the water gap for the area in the future.
Water gap in 2025 = (Water demand in 2025) – (Capacity for water production in 2015).

The water gap we defined as follows: the amount of water (m3) that will be required to provide for all the different types of water uses during a dry period of 10 months.

The future water demand was agreed upon in a participatory manner taking into account the different water uses: domestic, agriculture, livestock, migrating herds and wildlife. Of course livestock was by far the largest water user. For the capacity the total of wells and water pans of the current infrastructure was taken on the assumption that it could still be put back in full functional order.

By connecting the infrastructure to a certain water use and allocating the different water demands geographically a water gap map was made for each of the areas. These maps formed the basis for discussing and developing the master plans, which are organised to identify action in the areas of water infrastructure, water governance, water service delivery and capacity development.

The quality of the numbers in the water gap maps wasn't very high because on many aspects accurate information is missing and we had to work with estimates. Nevertheless, the fact that we had numbers was clearly making the discussions among the stakeholders sharper and helped to identify the choices that had to be made.

For example in many places in the Arid Lands a grazing land management has been tried with alternating success. The basic idea is that lands are allocated to certain areas for grazing depending on rainfall predictions and by entering and monitoring agreements between different herds groups and tribes. Often this was accompanied with a policy to develop water sources for cattle and herders near to the grazing lands. In the Wajir pilot area, however when this was discussed using the water gap map, they decided that this would only attract more migrating herds and they wanted to limit the development of new water sources only close to settlement areas. This was a heavily debated decision, because it impacted different interests of different herds groups and also it made more transparent the different interests between the pastoralists with the cattle and the people whose water priorities were more related to water security around the settlements, in particular the women.

Another area where the numbers of the water gap triggered a lot of thinking and discussion was around rehabilitating the existing infrastructure versus development of new water infrastructure and the need to prioritise maintenance and operation practices.

The water master plans were developed in 2014 and were updated once in 2015 with the inclusion of budgets for rehabilitation and support to the water user associations and operators to ensure that functionality of infrastructure was going to improve. At the same time local government, the INGOs and the communities in the areas realised that by turning all the future water needs and wishes into cubic meters and in Kenyan Shillings that they face an enormous task. At the same time there was a high appreciation by all that because having now the numbers they felt that they started to have a better grip on their (water) future.

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