Small-Scale, Private Water Service Provision: Case Studies of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya

05 Jan 2012

This series of case studies focuses on issues with private provision of water services in urban areas of Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.


Small scale providers increase water supply coverage – an essential service in fast-growing cities – and reduce time poverty. However, system of water provision by small-scale water vendors in highly fragmented, as a result of which poor households in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam pay high prices and get water of questionable quality. Uganda’s water provision system, despite drawbacks, has been developed in a different pattern. Since the introduction of the output-based aid scheme, some towns have seen a relatively rapid increase in the number of water connections with less public funding.


Water vendors in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania have shown agility in responding to gaps in public provision of water. But the result is a costly service which heavily penalizes low-income households. Similar situation is faced in Nairobi, Kenya: for two-thirds of households, expenditure on water is above the affordability threshold, while 57 percent of households consume below the water poverty line. The case studies recommendations include strengthening regulatory capacity required to ensure affordability and quality of the water provided. Uganda represents a distinct model of private water provision: water to small towns and rural centres not served by the public utility is provided through subcontracts by private operators, using piped connections. Despite better performance and higher efficiency of water provision through this system, the picture is mixed. Authors also warn of issues related to under-provision of water services to poorer areas, which can be improved through strengthening the regulatory capacity.