Extending water supply to low-income communities

WSUP has worked for years with Lusaka Water Supply and Sanitation Company (LWSSC) to support the extension of water supplies to low-income areas. The approach we have been taking in Zambia is for the utility to delegate the management of water supply to local management teams within communities. This is described as a Delegated Management Model (DMMs) and has proven to be very effective at improving services at the local level. The utility formally authorises and supports local organisations to take over responsibility for day-to-day service delivery. In partnership with LWSC, WSUP involves local residents in service delivery and sets up and supports community-based Water Trusts to ensure services are tailored to local needs and that challenges are addressed quickly. For example, if a customer is facing financial difficulty paying a water bill, the team helps arrange a payment plan to prevent disconnection from the service.

By preparing bills and payments, collecting meter readings, fixing leaks in the network and setting up new water connections they ensure a more reliable water supply and better customer service. As a result, residents become more positive about the service and more likely to invest in their own household water connections.

WSUP has been working to support LWSSC in the establishment and maintenance of these Water Trusts. This has included creating and monitoring service agreements between the operators and the utility; evaluating existing Water Trusts; mobilising capital to support new infrastructure; training staff and helping with community engagement. In addition, we have supported the low-income customer unit within LWSSC so that, in future, they will be able to establish delegated management models without external support.

In the case of Mtendere East, a low-income community in Lusaka, WSUP not only helped create a local Water Trust, we also helped to mobilise financing to extend the water network to the area. A decade on this Water Trust is now financially viable and continues to provide clean, affordable water to 1,700 households. Benny Kaleya is the local manager. He says, “The revenue collected has enabled us to extend the water network to more people and increase the number of kiosks from 15 to 24.”  The local management team has also established positive relationships with the community through good service provision and a fast response time to queries.

“The DMM has been very proactive in resolving any challenges that arise and always provides good customer service. I receive my bills on time and in instances where I have been unable to settle my water bill at once the DMM has a facility that allows me to pay in instalments and not face any water service interruption” – Austin Kazelondo, a customer of the DMM in Mtendere East.

“When the Mtendere East DMM was established we ensured that clear roles and responsibilities were laid out in the service management contract between the DMM and LWSSC. This ensured the local management team were able to provide good customer service and could receive the support they needed from the utility.” – Reuben Sipuma, WSUP Country Programme Manager in Zambia.

“We have seen high levels of efficiency with the DMM approach. You have a team dedicated to this area who are very efficient in providing services and are in constant contact with the customers”– Yvonne Siyeni, Peri-urban Department Manager for LWSSC.


Hellen Ponde – Lusaka

“Before, I used to spend K150 a month on water just for my household, but now the water bill is K80 for all the households on my plot”

Hellen Ponde (in the striped top) is a landlord in Chanzanga, a low-income neighbourhood of the Zambian capital, Lusaka. She lives in a small plot with two tenants.

For 23 years, her main source of water was a public kiosk 1.5km away. She spent 150 Kwacha or more a month on water. Having the cash for this daily necessity was a big challenge for her and her tenants. Hellen had to wake up around 4:30 am to line up her water containers, but still would often not get her water until noon. Chores would have to wait until then because water is not something to be shared among neighbours due to its scarcity.

“I live in the same yard with my tenants, we had a very formal relationship with each other. We didn’t want to be too friendly in case one doesn’t have money to buy water that day and they ask you to share the little resource you have.”

After WSUP supported the extension of the water network to her street, Hellen paid Chazanga Water Trust for a household connection. Now, she has a 24 hour water supply, and she doesn’t need to factor in time for drawing water when planning her day. “Before, I used to spend K150 a month on water just for my household, but now the water bill is K80 for all the households on my plot. So, my own water bill is only about K26 a month. My relationship with my tenants and among themselves has equally improved as we are freer to be friendly with each other without fear of creating dependence.” Hellen says the improved water supply has not only saved her money, but also helped create friendship with her neighbours, as pictured here.