LWF has been supporting Water Resource Users Associations (WRUAs) for over 10 years with the aim of building the capacity of local communities so that they can fully participate in water resource management. The Water Act (2002) provides for the establishment of WRUAs as a key platform for water users and stakeholders to engage and participate in the management of water resources within their sub catchment. However, this has not always been the case. It was in 1974 that a fully-fledged Ministry in Charge of Water Development affairs was created. One of the Ministry’s first decisions was to take over the management of not only Government operated water schemes, but also self-help and County Council operated schemes. This decision was marked with challenges including; lack of effective control over its schemes, rapid and effective responses to operations and maintenance requirements, reduced level of consumer participation and responsibility, low levels of equity in the social distribution of scheme water, financial sustainability among others.
The ministry acknowledged these challenges and commissioned 2 studies in 1983. The Water Study argued that the ministry should stay away from operations and maintenance responsibility while the Operations and Maintenance Study recommended this function should be decentralised. The two reports also called for water sector reforms to address the challenges. In 1992, the ministry of Water Development released two important documents that guided the sector up to the end of the decade. First to be tabled was the delineation study that defined the roles, functions and responsibilities of various actors in the sector, in particular the ministry and National Water Conservation and Pipeline Corporation. Second was The National Water Master Plan which set out long term plans for the much needed reforms in the management and development of the sector.
Between 1995 and 1999, the ministry was involved in a policy development process for the sector. National Policy on Water Resources Management and Development was published on Session Paper No.1 of 1999 and would become the blue print guiding the legal, administrative and investment reforms in the sector. The reforms would be driven by the Water Policy 1999, the Water Act 2002, the new Water Sector institutions as illustrated in the figure below.
The policy changes resulted in: separation of functions as illustrated in the figure above; decentralisation from government delegating functions to decentralised institutions and operational levels; stakeholder’s participation with greater involvement of water users and stakeholders in decision making and water resource management through WRUAs and Catchment Area Advisory Committees; Consideration of water as social and economic good through commercialisation of water services; user and polluter payments; and systems of protecting less advantaged members of the society.
The new constitution has mandated the National Government with the role of Water Resource management and regulation while County governments with soil and water conservation, water and sanitation services. The constitution has placed greater demands and responsibility on National and County government in the provision of clean and safe water in adequate quantities. Many Counties, including Laikipia are benefitting from introduced mandates, however there are still strides to be made as communities still do not have access to water resources despite living within the catchment areas.
Currently, the water act bill 2014 has been set to align the current water sector institutions in order to fit to the requirements of the New Constitution. It is only through the dedicated enforcement of these reforms can WRUAs and other dedicated stakeholders be successful in water resource management.