Draft rules to govern water resources management in kenya
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Draft Rules to Govern Water Resources Management in Kenya. Eugen M. Mnyamwezi Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA), Kenya. Background.

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Draft Rules to Govern Water Resources Management in Kenya

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Draft Rules to Govern Water Resources Management in Kenya

Eugen M. Mnyamwezi

Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA), Kenya.


  • Water is scarce because of the limited endowment, rapid population increase, impacts of climate variability and continued decline in public expenditure on developing water resources and neglect of the management of the water resource base and the consequential serious degradation.

  • In spite of this, water is neither understood, treated, developed nor managed as a scarce resource.

  • Loss of forest cover is a severe problem, pollution of the resource, poor management compound the water problem further.

Policy Reforms in the Water Sector

  • Kenya’s vulnerability to the effects of the mismanagement and degradation has called for significant policy response and action.

  • One major policy change is the shift from service provision to participatory governance of water. In this regard, the government enacted the Water Act 2002 which separates the functions of policy formulation and regulation from service provision.

The key principles underlying the governance of water resources reforms are:

  • Separation of policy, regulation, and service provision within the water and sewerage services;

  • Separation of water resources management from provision of water and sewerage services;

  • Devolution of responsibilities for water resources management and water service provision to the local level;

  • Enhancing the sustainability of service provision.

    The Act provides the legal framework in line with the new

    policy changes. New institutions with separate functions

    have been established and decentralised decision making

    is reflected in autonomous regional bodies.

Current Water Sector Institutions As Established by the Water Act 2002

  • Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA)

  • Water Services Regulatory Board (WSRB)

  • Water Services Trust Fund (WSTF)

  • Water Service Boards (WSB)

  • Water Appeals Board (WAB)

  • Water Catchment Areas Advisory Committees (CAAC)

  • Water Service Providers (WSP)

  • Water Resource Users Associations (WRUA)

Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA)

The Water Act established the Water Resources Management

Authority (WRMA) as the lead agency that will oversee the

management, use and development of water resources in the country.

WRMA has regional offices at catchment levels for decentralised

decision making, quick response to management problems and for

speedy water allocation processing.

The powers and functions of WRMA

  • Develop principles, guidelines and procedures for the allocation of water resources;

  • Monitor and assess implementation of the National Water Resources Management Strategy (NWRMS);

  • Receive and determine applications for permits for water use;

  • Monitor and enforce conditions attached to permits for water use;

  • Regulate and protect water resources quality from adverse impacts;

The powers and functions of WRMA

  • Manage and protect water catchments;

  • Determine charges to be imposed for the use of water from any water resource;

  • Gather and maintain information on water resources and from time to time publish forecasts, projections and information on water resources; and

  • Liase with other bodies for the better regulation and management of water resources.

Strategic Objectives of WRMA

  • To build and strengthen institutional capacity;

  • To maintain and sustain safe yields from the catchments;

  • To effectively assess water resources;

  • To regulate and control the use of water resources;

  • To increase water availability;

  • To ensure financial sustainability;

  • To undertake resource mobilization;

  • To build integrated communication mechanisms among stakeholders;

  • To mainstream gender HIV/AIDS and governance issues;

The Draft Water Resources Management Rules

  • To enable the authority carry out the above mandates, it is necessary to introduce the draft rules to govern the various activities that impact on water resources in the country.

  • Sec 110 of the Water Act 2002 calls for rules to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to the provisions of the Act

  • The draft rules provide for the mechanisms which will ensure efficiency and improved service delivery by binding the WRMA to respond within specified time to applications, requests for action and to complaints that are raised.

The Draft Water Resources Management Rules (Ctd)

  • The draft rules also introduce the requirement that WRMA provides water resources data and other information to the public in a timely manner at a reasonable cost.

  • The draft rules lays down the types of activities related to water resources that will require approval by the WRMA.

  • They also indicate the process that will be undertaken in application and issuance of permits for various works. Other issues include water use charges, conservation of riparian and catchment areas, catchment management strategies, protected areas, resource classification and water quality assessment.

Why Draft Rules for Water Resources Management?

The Draft Rules aim to address persistent problems in the water sector such as

  • Poor regulatory environment

  • Poor water quality

  • Low water reliability

  • Destruction of catchment areas

    Addresing these problems is within the mandate of the

    Water resources Management Authority (WRMA) and

    the draft Rules are introduced for use by the authority to

    support the enforcement of the Water Act.

What Issues are addressed by the Draft Rules

  • Catchment protection and destruction

  • Water resources Classifications & allocation Penalties for non compliance

  • Enforcement of standards

  • Permitting/water allocation

  • Water Quality and Pollution control

  • Protection of water bodies

What Issues are addressed by the Draft Rules (Ctd)

  • Introduction of stakeholder participation

  • Decentralization of services

  • Technical reports

  • Water abstractions

  • Water use charges

How will a common water user benefit from the Draft Rules

The rules have been designed to benefit all water users

relying on or with an interest in water resources.

For instance, domestic, agriculture, livestock and industrial

water users will benefit in the following ways:

  • Domestic: A reserve is set to ensure priority is given to domestic water users.

  • Agriculture: Priority will be given to minor irrigation, which is mainly small scale for livelihood support. The rules encourage water efficiency in agriculture and industrial water use.

  • Livestock owners and downstream users: the Draft rules provide for a reserve that aims at benefiting downstream water users.

How do the draft rules serve to protect water catchment areas and water bodies

  • The draft rules offer to control activities that can cause over exploitation and pollution of water bodies.

  • They also provide for the gazettement of any threatened water catchment area as a protected area.

How do the draft rules provide for stakeholder participation on water resources management

Water resources management requires an integrated

approach. In recognition of this, the draft rules provide and


  • The formation and strengthening of Water Resource Users’ Associations (WRUAs).

  • Clearly define the role of WRUAs and their relationship with WRMA.

  • Recognise the advisory role of CAACs at catchment area level. Each WRMA Catchment area has 15 CAAC members drawn from stakeholder groups within the respective catchments.

How will the draft rules benefit water service providers, community water projects, disadvantaged groups etc.

  • The draft rules give priority to domestic water users and sets lower water use charges for them.

  • The rules recognise that majority of Kenyans draw water from the resource dirctly and not from an improved supply. These groups do not require a water permit and will not pay water charges.

  • Further, the draft rules provide for the protection of resources from uncontrolled exploitation by large abstractors, thereby guaranteeing flows in all perennial rivers.

Where and how do you get a water permit and how much does it cost?

  • You do not require the services of a middleman, broker or third party in order to get a permit. Apply directly to your regional or sub-regional office of the WRMA.

  • The cost of a water permit depends on the category of permit applied for. Water uses have been classified into A, B, C and D depending on a number of factors including how much water is needed and the impact the activity is likely to have on the water resource.

  • Category A use will generally be deemed to have a low risk of impacting the water resource and will be exempted from paying water user charges. The rates for Category B, C and D permit holders are indicated in the draft rules.

  • Any payment to be made is communicated after computation. A receipt is issued for all payments made.

What appeal mechanisms are in place in-case services provided are unsatisfactory?

If a water user feels that WRMA has

unsatisfactorily served or denied a customer

service, then the client should:

  • File a complaint to the WRMA Office.

  • The draft rules require the regional office to

    respond to client complaints within 21 days.

  • A copy of the complaint should also be sent to the WRMA Chief Executive Officer in Nairobi.

Are there any penalties for non-compliance with the draft rules?

  • Under the Water Act 2002, the WRMA is empowered to take specified actions against specific violations of the rules and regulations

Why do you have to pay water use charges when you are already paying taxes

  • Water use charges is one way of making water users treat water as a valuable and limited resource and therefore encourage them to use the resource efficiently and sparingly.

  • Funds so collected will be ploughed back to support catchment protection, pollution control and in monitoring the resource as well as its use.

Where can the draft rules be obtained from?

The draft rules are available for public inspection at the following


  • Ministry of Water and Irrigation Maji House library,

  • All District Water Offices,

  • the WRMA headquarters

  • All regional WRMA offices which are located in Kakamega, Kisumu,

  • Nakuru, Machakos, Nanyuki and Embu.

    The draft rules have been developed through stakeholder participation

    through aseries of consultative workshops with stakeholders in all the

    regional WRMA catchment areas as well as a National stakeholders

    consultative forum held in Karen KCB Management Centre from 29th to

    30th August, 2006.

    Comments from such workshops are being incorporated in the draft

    rules to produce the final rules for gazettement and implementation.

    Comments on the draft rules are still welcome.

The full Draft Rules document is available for comment by stakeholders free of charge from our offices country-wide.

Thanks for your patience

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