Kisumu lies on Lake Victoria and is Kenya’s third city. The city’s original layout consisted of a formal planned centre and higher income neighbourhoods by the lakeside, surrounded by a belt of informal settlements, some of which lay on low-lying marshy ground.
These original informal settlements have densified and still lack services such as sewerage and piped water, with many relying on shallow wells instead for some domestic water.
Packaged water is much less widespread than in Ghana, so many also rely on water vended in jerrycans and sold by handcart operators or from kiosks. However, whilst water vended in jerrycans does not involve single-use plastics, both the shallow well water and jerrycan water are often heavily contaminated.
Many Kenyan water utilities have operated a delegated management model, including Kisumu’s waste utility KIWASCO since 2007. To avoid non-revenue water loss from illegal connections, this model passes on responsibility for water services in some low-income neighbourhoods from the utility to other small-scale providers.
Delegated management thus brings pipes and kiosks closer to consumers, cutting out some water-handling and potential recontamination by handcart operators. It may reduce contaminant ingress via pipe breakages, but also delegates pipe-laying. Through the project’s work in Kenya, we aim to assess how delegated management has affected water safety, as well as working with off-grid communities to develop new ideas for making water vended in jerrycans safer for consumption.