Support to the water sector, Zambia


Access to safe drinking water is a key factor in the economic and social development of any country. Zambia has a population of 13.5 million people and an urbanization rate of 39 percent, but as recently as 2006 only two-thirds of the country’s urban population had access to safe drinking water. This was largely due to poor town planning and investment strategies, along with inefficient management structures, unclear division of responsibility, and rapid increases in Zambia’s urban population.

Development results

Since 2006, the provision of safe water supplies to urban dwellers has increased from two-thirds of the population to more than three-quarters. With combined investments in infrastructure and capacity development, the installation of 400 ‘water-kiosks’ has given 800,000 people in low-income urban and peri-urban communities access to safe drinking water. The government is planning to expand access to the entire urban population – an additional estimated 2.85 million people – by 2015.

Enhanced performance

The 1994 National Water Policy reformed Zambia’s water sector, which is regulated and economically sustained by the National Water and Sanitation Council. Among the most significant outcomes was the establishment of 11 Commercial Water Utilities, which provide water and sanitation services to 92 percent of the urban population.

The optimization of institutional structures and processes has made water and sanitation institutions perform better. This is part of an approach that has enhanced capacities at the political, organizational, and individual levels, which has enabled resources to be managed more effectively and has produced tangible results.

Training has enabled ministries, local governments, and utilities to identify their needs and plan for their organizational and infrastructure priorities. For example, the National Water and Sanitation Council now monitors the progress of commercial utilities and produces an annual report on their activities and achievements.

With a view to ensuring sustainability, beneficiaries pay a subsidized tariff for water and sanitation services which covers the systems’ long-term maintenance. The commercial utilities, for their part, have understood that their clients’ willingness to pay for services is linked to the quality of the services provided. Therefore, client satisfaction is now driving the utilities’ management capacities and service orientation. The introduction of standard operating procedures and the development of a monitoring and reporting system have allowed achieving cost recovery through sales at water kiosks and from metered consumers.

The experience of successful planning and implementation has allowed local governments and the commercial utilities to develop further sanitation and water supply projects. The Devolution Trust Fund is a multi-donor basket fund, including funds from the Zambian Government, the governments of Denmark, Germany, and Australia, and the European Commission. A supervisory board oversees disbursement of funds to projects and provides the framework for the development of the water and sanitation sector in Zambia. The Fund places particular emphasis on results, such as the number of people with services. It has funded the expansion of the implementation model and the development of a national scaling-up strategy for water and sanitation. It is hoped that with the Fund’s support, the national programme will be able to service most of Zambia’s peri-urban areas within the coming years.

Support to the capacity development process

National investments

Government leadership to move forward with the reforms has been critical; this included the political will to create a regulatory body for the privatization of parts of the operations. The Government leadership also made adequate budgetary provisions to support the implementation of such institutional changes. Several laws and regulatory frameworks were introduced and, in 2008, the National Water and Sanitation Council implemented the Regulation by Incentives programme which drove improvements in water and sanitation services.

Development partners’ support

Zambia’s development partners combined capacity development (through long-term technical cooperation provided largely by the German Government) with finance for selected utility infrastructure projects and contributions to the multi-donor basket fund.

Capacity was developed through a combination of participatory organizational development and policy advice with individual skills and career building. The regulatory authority, commercial water supply companies and district governments all benefitted from participatory reviews of their structures, procedures, and capacities. This also led to improved operational skills, procedures, and manuals, and a greater orientation to service and commercial sustainability. Individual skills were addressed through formal training courses, workshops, and exchange of information.

This approach to capacity development helped institutions and other stakeholders to improve their grasp of their obligations and responsibilities. It also helped to bridge the gap between the demand and supply sides of service delivery, particularly making the supply process more coordinated and effective. The approach was piloted for two years, after which the national authority adopted it as the standard strategy for urban water supply.

Find out more

Please contact Eberhard Goll
Phone: 00260-211291918

Year of publication: 
LenCD "Capacity: Results"
Themes and sectors: 
Water supply

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