Water demand

[Anonymous].  2005.  Colombia: water availability and multiple uses of water in a Colombian micro-catchment (English & Spanish).


Within the framework of the project "Youth in Research" coordinated by the Communities and Watersheds program at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture - CIAT, and funded by the Kellogg Foundation, the youth from the Los Sainos watershed (447 Ha) prioritized water availability in relation to water quality and land use, because of the scarcity periods suffered by the watershed community in recent years. This work consisted of a participatory research with youth of the watershed to answer the following question:

Where are the hot spots in the micro-watershed that through better management practices could contribute to reduce the risks of the community to experience water shortages and deterioration of water quality for all uses in the watershed?

To answer this question we addressed the following:
- What are the water needs of a rural family for domestic and productive uses?
- What is the water supply in the watershed and does it satisfy the needs for the zone?
- What is the relation between land use and water quality?

To quantify consumption and water use, simple equipment was used such as chronometers, recipients, and burettes; and for quality measurements, the equipment used was Hach© for pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, conductivity, total dissolved solids, calcium hardness and total hardness and the Oxfam© del Agua equipment for fecal and total coliformes.

The sampling and measuring period was a whole dry season (June to August 2005). It was found that water availability satisfies the current water needs, although with a reduction of water availability of between 15% and 20% the community would start to experience scarcity. Because the system of water supply does not have any treatment for coliformes, they are present even in protected areas, and all individual households need to treat the water for domestic consumption. A close relationship between land use and water quality is demonstrated. The negative impacts on water quality were clearly determined in the downs stream from the discharges of pig manure without treatment and downstream discharges from septic tanks with poor or no maintenance. The quality parameters with greater variability and land use dependent are conductivity, total dissolved solids, fecal and total coliformes, nitrates and phosphates. Other parameters such as temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, calcium hardness and total hardness depend more on topography and land erosion.

Great difference in water technologies are seen between the upper, middle and low sections of the watershed. The majority of the houses in the upper catchment have biodigestors, use less water in cleaning pig houses, and use sand filters; these technologies are in some cases, unknown to the people in the middle and low areas. It was showed during this study that these technologies were efficient because they reduce water pollution to the streams, improve water quality water for human consumption and allow a more efficient water use. Among the strategies for a more efficient water use, the community identified the implementation of these technologies in the whole watershed, achieving the support from the governmental institutions to improve and maintain these technologies, and the willingness of landowners to protect the streams and riparian areas.

[Anonymous].  Submitted.  Kenya: domestic water utilisation and its influence on the household livelihood of a rural community in Ukambani, Eastern Province (English).


Water policy in Kenya recognises use for drinking purposes, but does not address its growing demand and competing uses. In rural areas, water resources are used for a combination of basic human needs and productive purposes. These economic activities such as vegetable gardens, cattle farming, beer brewing amongst others, are highly dependent on reliable and adequate water supply (Nicol, 2000). Water serves in a wide range of productive uses to secure food and non-food income for rural households. It is a productive asset for the poor and an economic good, which, can be combined with other assets to generate financial and non-financial livelihood benefits (Mokgope & Butterworth, 2001). The aim of this study was to assess how the local community make their livelihood choices, determine the role water plays in these choices and how it affects their incomes and their food security.

The study area is located in Eastern Province of Kenya covering the districts of Machakos, Makueni, Kitui and Mwingi, with a population of 2.5 million people scattered over an area of 44,680 km² (Moresmau & Hanne, 2004). Their main source of income is subsistence agriculture. Unfavourable climatic conditions in the region are one of the factors leading to frequent food shortage and increasing poverty. The Integrated Natural Resource Management Project in Ukambani (INRMU) funded by the Belgian Technical Cooperation (BTC) in collaboration with the Government of Kenya’s was chosen as the entry point for the study.


The survey was carried out in January 2005 in Machakos and Makueni districts.The household was the unit of analysis as it is the basis of livelihood economic activities, resource allocation and utilization. 27 households in the project and 30 outside the project were sampled. Data was collected using semi-structured questionnaires and focus group discussion (Ochieng, 2005).

The main occupation of the sample population is farming (80.7%) followed by salaried employment (12.3%) and trading (7.0%). 82% of the households own land, with the average ownership being 3.6 acres.

Type of water access, storage capacity, water expenses and participation in a water activity was significantly (p<0.1) different between the households in and those not in the project. The type of water access is the best distinguishing water use characteristic. The source of water, type of water access, storage capacity and monthly water expenditure had a significant (p<0.10) influence on household choice to participate in productive water use. The distance from water source was not significantly different (p>0.10) and does not influence household’s choice to engage in productive water use.

Most household have communal water access compared to private water points. Majority of households with private water points (92%) participate in productive water use with (83%) of them participating in BTC project compared to 51% with communal access who take part in productive water use (table 4). This agree with the findings of Hope et al. (2003), in a study in a rural community in South Africa, in which they found a positive association between the ability to involve in irrigation of vegetables and owning private water-supply.

Only 37.5% of households with community water projects are engaged in productive water use. Thus some households despite being in the BTC project are yet to derive any benefits and are not involved in productive water use. Reasons for this include inadequate water storage capacity, and inability to raise cost-sharing component for participation in the project. Households may be involved in none water-related or water-intensive livelihood options such as preparation of snacks or beer brewing for sale.

The cost of water depends on the household water use and collection strategy. Households participating in income related water activity incur relatively higher water expenses. High cost of water during the dry season, discourage participation in income related water activity. Mokgope & Butterworth (2001) in their study on rural water-supply and productive uses in South Africa found a similar problem and stated that this affected households’ participation in water activities.

The region is susceptible to frequent water shortages. It’s unclear why several households have no storage capacity and get water on a daily basis which is inefficient, laborious and time consuming. It’s probable that this is caused by inadequate capital to install storage facilities. Those with ability to pump water participate in water dependant economic activity and have large storage capacities. Households who harvest rain water have also invested on storage facilities. Water storage capacity does influence household water utilisation pattern.

Households generate income by using water for selected productive uses like vegetable production, livestock production and water sales. The primary productive water use activity was crop production (46 %). The large variation in incomes from vegetable cropping may probably be attributed to the irrigation technique, the type of vegetable grown and targeted market. Encouraging export crops require proper infrastructure, proper storage facilities and enabling marketing policies. Although vegetable production show an important contribution to the incomes of the households in the area, its sustainability and impact on poor households require further investigation.

Income of the households in the project and households participating in water activity were significantly (p<0.05) higher having a mean monthly income of KES 13605.9 while households outside the project had a mean of KES 6489.4.

The most preferred methods of irrigation were drip, furrow and manual irrigation. Those using drip irrigation are 17.5% indicating low adoption rate for this water saving technology. Drip irrigation showed higher water use efficiency, thus water quantity per se, may not be as critical in productivity as opposed to the efficiency in its utilisation. Fewer households use drip irrigation as its installation is costly and the skill of installation is beyond the means of the average and poorer households.

Unexpectedly, 77.2% and 75.4% stated that high cost of water and low incomes respectively are not constraints to household water utilisation. It is probable that water at this moment is not fully priced to reflect its demand and value.


This rural community views water as a productive asset and is engaging in on-farm income related water activities. Off-farm activities are limited/less favoured. Private water access influence participation in a water related activity compared to communal access. Knowledge on water harvesting and storage techniques is important since water storage capacity influences household participation in productive water use. The absolute amount of water used has no significant effect on incomes but rather the water use efficiency.

Water utilisation is hampered by inadequate water storage facilities, poor water harvesting techniques and limited skill or opportunities in water income activities. Enhanced productivity is undermined by poor infrastructure, unstable prices, poor access to market and inadequate market information.


This study shows that

  • Private water access policy is likely to enhance productive water use.
  • Policies that promote efficient water use technologies can enhance household productivity
  • Marketing infrastructure and information is key to sustainable household productive water use

There is need to:

  • Evaluate optimal options for on-farm and off-farm productive water use
  • Assess opportunities for enhancing the participation of the poorest households in projects with cost sharing components.
  • Identify policies and constraints that affect adoption of technologies with efficient water use.
  • Determine the role of gender in household livelihood in relation to productive water use


Hope, R.A., Dixion, P-J., Von Maltitz, G., 2003. The Role of Improved Domestic Water Supply in livelihoods and Poverty Reduction in Limpopo province, South Africa, in International Symposium on water ,poverty and productive uses at household level, 21-23 January, Muldersdrift, South Africa, p. 94-108.

Mokgope, K. and Butterworth, J. A., 2001. Rural water supply and productive use: A Rapid Survey in SandRiver Catchment. WHIRL working paper (4), p.1-21.

Moresmau, V. and Hanne, P., 2004. Efficiency Use of Water in Ukambani-Kenya. A report by UNESCO and BTC-Kenya. Primex printers Ltd, Nairobi, Kenya. .p.28.

Nicol, A., 2000. Adopting a Sustainable Livelihoods Approach to Water Projects. Implication for policy and practice. ODI working paper (133). LondonUK.

Ochieng, N.C., (2005). Improved Domestic Water Utilization and Livelihood in Rural Kenya: MSc Thesis.GhentUniversity.


One dollar equals KES75


Consela Ochieng, Belgium (conselam@yahoo.com)

[Anonymous].  Submitted.  India: rural water supply publication.

A recent book addresses some of the problems caused in rural India by a narrow focus on water for drinking. An extended quote from the book makes interesting reading:

“The rationale for Unicef's agreement to support the 'accelerated' rural water supply programme is very significant. The thrust was safe drinking water, to pursue the goal of improved public health particularly of children. In spite of the needs of the Indian farmer for water to irrigate his crops during the dry season, without which his family's food supply would be threatened and children's and women’s' well-being jeopardized from another direction, Unicef's concern was limited to water for drinking and domestic purposes. Indeed, if there had been any mention of agriculture during the debates surrounding the proposal, it would have stopped dead in its tracks. Some advocates of applied nutrition were keen to support domestic water supplies for kitchen gardens as an adjunct of family food supplies, but nutrition programmes were then seen as an adjunct to health in the Unicef perspective. This did not accord with the way community water resources were traditionally viewed, either by villagers or by previous government policy.

Given their multiple needs for water, including water to irrigate their crops, villagers in India tend to view the water resources available to them holistically. What they need is water, plain and simple. In many parts of the country little differentiation is made between water for drinking and domestic purposes and water for cultivation. Certain wells and other sources may be favoured for drinking because of their taste or perceived purity, or because they can be more conveniently accessed. Until the advent of the 'problem village' with its exclusive focus on defining water scarcity in terms of water for drinking, government programmes for village water supply had not made this distinction either. But in the late 1960s, influenced on the one hand by the Green Revolution and its emphasis on large-scale irrigated agriculture, and on the other by a new 'water for health' ideology promoted by Unicef and WHO, government policies towards water were for the first time compartmentalized.

The long-term implications of this division along sectoral lines were not then perceived but they were to be profound. In fact the idea that they were promoting a departure from the norm did not occur to Unicef, whose new water professionals were schooled in Western public health engineering traditions, where domestic water supplies have no livelihood context and are almost exclusively about washing, cooking and drinking. No one can quarrel with the primacy of water for drinking. Water to drink is indisputably essential for human and livestock survival. But a policy which neglected other basic water needs, and failed to integrate requirements for agriculture and requirements for health has become, in more recent times an albatross of terrifying proportions. Such a crisis has not been anticipated at the time. There was a head of political steam behind village drinking water supplies, and after initial self-doubt, Unicef stood ready to serve.”

Read more in Black, M., Talbot, R. 2005. Water a matter of life and health, water supply and sanitation in Village India, Unicef with Oxford University Press, New Delhi. The above quote is from pages 41-43.