Putting Local Wealth to Work for Safe Water Access
Peaceful, jacaranda-shaded Embu, Kenya resembles many small cities in East Africa: bustling on market days, dusty and a little sleepy the rest of the week. But, water is always a major concern of its residents.
Though Embu is situated near several rivers in the shadow of Mount Kenya, the county government struggles to bring water to the town and neighboring villages through an aging network of leaky pipes dating to the 1970s. Currently, more than half of people in Embu do not have access to improved water service.
“People used to spend half a day collecting water — and water quality was very poor,” said H.M. Kerungendo, the managing director of the Embu Water and Sanitation Company (EWASCO).
Globally, satisfying water and sanitation needs will take enormous investments that are beyond the ability of Official Development Assistance (ODA) or public financing alone. In Kenya, water utilities face an estimated $2.6 billion financing gap — or more than 10 times the Kenyan government’s budget for water supply and sanitation for 2015–16.
Closing these gaps will require new solutions and new funding sources, including mobilizing domestic capital and capacity.