What hope for the transition? Evaluating pro-poor water supply interventions in urban low-income settlements in Kenya
A multitude of pro-poor water supply interventions are continually piloted in Kenya’s fast-growing urban settlements to meet national and global Millennium Development Goal targets, yet problems persist, regardless of the investments made. An evaluation is reported of four interventions by public utilities and non-governmental organizations in the low-income settlements of Nairobi, Kisumu and Nakuru, comprising: three ‘distribution’ interventions (‘Social Connections’; ‘WaterChoices Kiosks’; Prepaid Meters) and one ‘supply’ intervention (independently supplied boreholes), through 1,168 household surveys, records analysis, and key informant interviews. The results showed that price reduction (most evident with the prepaid meters) and accessibility is critical for customer satisfaction, with limited sustainability of all the interventions being the confounding factor. Despite showing few positive benefits (apart from the over-riding benefit of availability), 81 per cent of the consumers of borehole water continued to rely on expensive independently supplied boreholes, which were all found to supply contaminated water. In attempting to meet the rapidly growing demand, this study concludes that point source groundwater, with a bias for the poorest (by attempting to control groundwater access elsewhere), may be the transitional solution for the utility to promote in the foreseeable future, out of necessity rather than desire.