Detailed Insight About Sanitation and Water Supply in Tanzania

Detailed Insight About Sanitation and Water Supply in Tanzania

Sanitation and water supply in Tanzania is characterized by: periodic water supply, generally low quality of service, dwindling access to basic sources of water in the 2000s (particularly in urban regions), and constant access to some form of sanitation (close to 93 percent since the 1990s). As a result of inefficiency and low tariffs, many utilities can barely cover their maintenance and operation costs. There are major regional disparities, and the best-performing utilities are Tanga and Arusha.

The Tanzanian government updated the National Water Policy (NAWAPO) in 2002 and has since then started a major sector reform. At the time, the central government reported that just 42 percent of rural homes had access to improved water and that 30 percent of all water systems in Tanzania were inoperative. In 2006, the government adopted an aggressive National Water Sector Develop Strategy. The strategy promoted the development of water supply in Tanzania’s urban and rural areas and integrated water resources management. With decentralization, the local government is now responsible for providing sanitation and water services. These services are rendered by 100 district utilities, 200 urban utilities, and Community Owned Water Supply Organizations in rural areas.

The reforms have been supported by a considerable budget increase since 2006, when the sector was made one of the priority areas of the National Strategy for Growth and Poverty Reduction (MKUKUTA). The sector of water supply in Tanzania still depends heavily on external donors: external donor groups provide 88 percent of the available funds. There have been mixed results. For instance, according to a GIZ report, despite the heavy investments brought in by the European Union and the World Bank, the utility serving Dar es Salaam remains one of the worst-performing water entities in the country.

Access – Challenges Facing Water Supply in Tanzania

Access to sanitation and water supply in Tanzania remains low across the country. It is especially difficult to determine data on access to water and sanitation due to the fact that various sources and definitions are used. This usually results in huge discrepancies. In 2015, 50 percent of the people had access to “at least basic” water, 37 percent and 79 percent of rural and urban areas, respectively. In 2015, close to 26 million people did not have access to “at least basic” water in Tanzania. As regards sanitation, about 40 million people did not have access to “at least basic” sanitation in 2015. As of 2015, only 24 percent of the population had access to “at least basic” sanitation, 17 percent and 37 percent in rural and urban areas, respectively.

According to a report, household studies frequently return lower rural water supply than the Ministry of Water and Irrigation’s estimates. The Ministry’s data is collected by urban water and sanitation authorities and district water engineers. In urban areas, survey data are usually higher because they also include homes that are not connected to the formal water supply network and get water from neighbors’ protected wells or boreholes.

Water Supply

A little more than 50 percent of the population is estimated to have access to an improved source of water supply in Tanzania, with striking differences between rural areas (around 44 percent in 2010) and urban areas (around 79 percent in 2010). In rural areas, access is defined as meaning that families have to travel less than 1 km to a protected source of drinking water in the dry season. It is difficult to determine trends in access to water supply because of unreliable and conflicting data. However, access increased during the 1990a, especially in rural areas, before stagnating in the 2000s. According to statistics from the Household Budget Surveys 2000/2001 and 2007, access to an improved source of water in mainland Tanzania dropped from 55 percent to 52 percent in 2007. Using a narrow definition, close to 34 percent of households had access to pipe-borne water in 2007, as opposed to 40 percent in 2000. However, when a broader definition of access that includes protected springs and standpipes is used, there is a minor increase in the percentage of homes reporting a source of drinking water within 1 km. Statistics from the Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation show a contrasting trend. They indicate a slight decrease in access from 55 percent in 1990 to 53 percent in 2010. According to the figures, water supply in Tanzania’s rural areas stagnated, while it dropped from 94 percent to 79 percent in urban areas over the same period. The Joint Monitoring Programme estimates rely on extrapolations using data from the 2002 census, the Health and Demographic surveys of 1999, 2005, and 2010, and the Household Budget Survey 2000/2001 and 2007.


National Household Budget Surveys asked respondents about the kind of sanitary facility they have. In 2007, 93 percent of Tanzanians answered that they had some form of latrine. However, just 3 percent had a flush toilet. International statistics that track the attainment of the Millennium Development Goal for sanitation are based on these figures, but only after making some vital adjustments in a bid to achieve comparability across countries. According to the Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation, improved sanitation refers to excreta disposal systems that are not public and that separate human excreta from human contact. From this definition, open pit latrines and shared latrines are excluded. The Joint Monitoring Programme estimates that just about 50 percent of the latrines in the country can be regarded as improved sanitation systems. Based on that definition, access to improved sanitation is considerably lower than the population with access to any form of latrine. According to the definition given by JMP, access to improved sanitation was only 10 percent in 2010, an increase on the 8 percent recorded in 1990, with a minor decrease in rural areas and an increase in urban areas.

Data Related to Access to Water Supply and Sanitation in Tanzania (2007)

Dar es Salaam (6 percent of the total population) Other Urban Areas (19 percent of the total population) Rural areas (75 percent of the total population) Total
Sanitation Flush toilets 10 percent 6 percent 1 percent 3 percent
All forms, including latrine 97 percent 97 percent 90 percent 93 percent
Water Broad definition 85 percent 76 percent 40 percent 52 percent
House Connections 8 percent 13 percent 1 percent 4 percent

Service Quality

Supply Continuity

Out of the 20 Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Authorities (UWSSAs) that function in Tanzania, only three provide continuous water supply (Tanga, Songea, and Arusha). In 11 other cities, there is water supply for at least 19 hours. In Mtwara and Babati, water is supplied for 12 hours each day. The lowest figures come from Singida, Lindi, and Kigoma (5 hours each day). On average,  water is supplied for 9 hours each day in Dar es Salaam.

Quality of Water

The quality of water varies significantly within Tanzania. In the semiarid regions (including Arusha, Dodoma, Shinyanga, Singida, and Tabora), turbidity levels and colour become precarious during the rainy season. The fluoride concentrations in rivers located in the fluoride belt (including Kilimanjaro, Arusha, Shinyanga, and Singida regions of the Rift Valley as well as the Pangani and Internal Drainage Basins) are naturally high. The waters of Lakes Nyasa and Tanganyika have good overall water quality, except around urban areas where effluent and stormwater cause local contamination. In contrast, the water quality of lake Victoria is poor; high nutrient levels and turbidity cause frequent algae blooms and waterweed infestation.

The local service providers are in charge of the quality of drinking water at the point of water production. They refer to Water Quality Standards created for rural and urban areas in the 1970s.

A water pollution incident happened at the Barrick Gold North Mara Mine in May 2009. Acidic water (4.8 pH) leaked from a mine rock storage facility into the Tigithe River, a river used for bathing, irrigation, and as an unprotected source of drinking water.

Wastewater Treatment

Out of the 20 urban water utilities, eleven provide some access to sewage system connections. The reported figure in Morogoro is 15 percent, Moshi is 45 percent (this figure includes some industrial connections), and in Iringa and Dodoma, it is 13 percent. The length of the sewer network in Dar es Salaam is estimated at 188 kilometres. However, only 4 percent of households have access to the network.

According to an article by a team of researchers from the Waste Stabilization Ponds and Constructed Wetlands Research Group at the University of Dar es Salaam, stabilization ponds are the most common technology for treating wastewater in Tanzania. Water stabilization ponds were introduced in the late 1960s because of the availability of natural wetlands and the favorable tropical climate. At the time, 20 wastewater pond systems were in existence; five of them were used to treat paper mill, tannery, textile, and other industrial wastewater. However, many waste stabilization pond systems are ineffective due to poor maintenance and operations, configuration and design mistakes, and the mixing of industrial and municipal wastes. In 1998, artificial wetlands were introduced in the country. Ten units have been constructed for residential buildings and institutions like colleges, prisons, and schools. They serve close to 120,000 people.

Wastewater treatment plants also function in the municipalities of Arusha, Dodoma, Iringa, Songea, and Morogoro and the cities of Mwanza and Dar es Salaam. Wastewater samples are taken from these wastewater treatment plants. The analysis of 250 samples showed that the national standards for effluent before discharge were met in 88 percent of cases.

Water Resources

An example of water resources issues - TheGreat Ruaha River dried immensely in year 2006
An example of water resources issues – The Great Ruaha River dried immensely in year 2006

On average and as a whole, there is an extensive resources of water supply in Tanzania. According to FAO, in 2008, Tanzania had 76.27km3 of renewable water resources yearly (estimated global water resources are around 43,750km3 per year). This figure translates to 2,266 m3 per individual and year. However, water resources are not evenly distributed both in space and time. During the dry season (June to October), even the flow of large rivers can substantially decline or even dry up. Some parts of Tanzania receive, on average, up to 30,000 mm of rain each year, while in other places (like the Rift Valley or the Dodoma Region), yearly rainfall averages 600mm.

According to projections, water supply in Tanzania will experience stress by 2025 – an average per capita water resource that falls below 1,500m3 due to population growth and the resulting rise in consumption.

As of 2002, water use for municipal water supply in Tanzania was around 493 million m3 per year or 0.5 percent of total renewable water resources.

Lakes cover around 7 percent of the total land surface in Tanzania. There are three African Great Lakes on the border: Lake Victoria, Lake Nyasa, and Lake Tanganyika. Inland lakes include Lake Eyasi, Lake Manyara, and Lake Rukwa. Tanzania has nine major drainage basins. The basins are divided according to the recipient water body. The Ruvu/Wami River Basin, the Pangani River Basin, the Southern Coast Basin, the Rufiji River Basin, the Ruvuma River, and the Ruvuma River drain into the Indian Ocean. The Lake Victoria basin drains to the Mediterranean Sea via the Nile River basin. The Tanganyika Lake drains to the Atlantic Ocean via the River Congo basin. The Rukwa Lake basin and the Internal Drainage Basin belong to the Rift Valley basin.

Tanzania is divided into nine administrative units that correspond to the nine major lake or river basins. Basin Water Offices regulate and plan the use of water resources, according to the Water Resources Act Nr. 11 of 209. The water resource management department of the Water Sector Development Programme demands that their activities be carried out according to Integrated Water Resources Management principles. However, it has been noted that Basin Water Offices suffer from acute institutional weaknesses – they usually lack essential information, clear development plans to manage investments and support monitoring, and most suffer from weak human capacity.

Recent Developments and History

Since independence, the history of sanitation and water supply in Tanzania has been characterized by ambitious plans that largely failed to achieve their aims.

Late Colonial Era

In the 1950s, the few settlements with pipe-borne water charged for water sold through residential connections and at water kiosks. In rural locations, cooperatives operated and maintained systems—for example, the Makonde Water Development Cooperation in the Mtwara Region of Southern Tanzania. At that time, one of the promises of the independence movement was the provision of free water – a promise that was kept when Tanganyika became independent in 1981.

Free Water Supply in Tanzania and Top-down Projects (1964 to 1991)

After the union of the ex-British colonies (Zanzibar and Tanganyika) to form the United Republic of Tanzania in 1964, President Julius Nyerere enacted a policy of African socialism known as Ujamaa. The policy included forced resettlement of dispersed rural farmers to collective farms. One of the stated aims of the resettlement was to aid the provision of education, water supply, and health services. In the spirit of Ujamaa, the government inaugurated a 20-year Rural Water Supply Programme in 1971 with the objective of providing access to safe and adequate water supply within walking distance of 400 metres from each household by 1991. Under this programme, water was supplied to rural areas free of charge. Implementation was highly centralized – in 1972, the local government authorities were abolished by the central government. In their place, central government representatives too over at the village and district level under a policy that was ironically called “decentralization.” The programme was supported by donors who funded over 80 percent of investments in water supply in Tanzania in the 1970s.

According to a WaterAid report, “the subsequent water supply projects in Tanzania were not sustainable and left a legacy of mistrust among villagers for government programmes.” The district water department selected villages based on technical standards only, without consulting the communities.

Deep boreholes were dug and equipped with diesel engines and pumps that the government should have maintained using central funds. This didn’t work well, and most of the pumps were not operable. In other places, mismanagement of funds provided by the government and the desire to build as many water systems as possible resulted in the initial building of projects that were never completed. In the years that followed, public services broke down, and a severe cholera outbreak occurred in many urban areas from 1976 to 1980. Municipal and Town Councils were reintroduced in 1978 in response to this failure. However, they remained without their own revenue and completely depended on funding from the central government. Public service provision remained inadequate. However, donors and politicians had realized by that time that the free policy for rural water supply in Tanzania and the centralized government had failed. It took them over 20 years from its inception to alter the policy. A mid-term appraisal of the Rural Water Supply Programme carried out in 1985 showed that only 46 percent of the rural population had access to water supply. Among the reasons was lack of beneficiary involvement, insufficient financial resources, use of unsuitable technologies, inadequate operations and maintenance methods, and a poor, overly centralized institutional framework.

Community Participation and Management (1991 to present time)

The Michenzani apartment building in Zanzibar island close to Stone Town showing the complexity of placing proper water supply and sanitation infrastructure
The Michenzani apartment building in Zanzibar island close to Stone Town showing the complexity of placing proper water supply and sanitation infrastructure

The Ujamaa policy was phased out gradually when Nyerere handed power over to Ali H. Mwinyi, initially as president in 1985 and then as head of the ruling party in 1990. The government started administrative and political reforms, one of which was the National Water Policy that was approved in 1991. Central to the reforms was the Local Government Reform Programme. The programme was aimed towards decentralizing power through the devolution of resources and responsibility for service delivery to municipal and district councils. This included the transfers of unconditional and conditional block grants to the councils. The National Water Policy emphasized community participation in selecting projects and operating and maintaining through various water committees that charged for water. Villages also had to make cash contributions towards the capital costs and contributed labor and time, local materials, as well as hospitality for visiting government staff. They also received hygiene education and served on health committees.

WaterAid initiated a pilot for the new policy in Dodoma Urban District together with the district government. An ingenious part of this project was that the water department worked hand in hand with the health department and the community development department. Previously, both had not been involved in water projects. Using the acronym of WaterAid and the three departments, the team was known as WAMMA, giving the project its name. Each of the teams from the three departments needed to have both women and men among its staff. However, it was difficult to implement this due to a shortage of female staff. Unlike earlier programmes, communities were chosen based on a needs survey. Due to the fact that government workers at all levels were paid poorly, they had little interest in working. Subsequently, some became demotivated. Like many externally funded programmes, the WAMMA project paid fieldworkers allowances for work done outside their offices in order to keep them motivated. However, workers were paid at the official rate because any higher allowance could potentially undermine the government’s capability to sustain or replicate work without the input of donors. Initially, WaterAid worked directly at the district level and had no formal agreement with the regional government until 1995. The district government and WaterAid considered the programme a success. Subsequently, it was extended to three other districts in Dodoma Region. Between 1991 and 1996, 86 projects were done. The innovative and collaborative work between the three district departments and the participatory approach attracted visitors from all over Tanzania.

According to a Water Sector Review conducted in 1993, the problems identified in the water sector in 1985 lingered at the national level and proposed further reforms. In 1993, the Waterworks Act, Cap 272, was introduced to implement the reforms in urban areas. It aimed to regulate water supply in Tanzania through urban public authorities.

New guidelines for the National Water Policy were released in 1996. Guidelines developed under the WAMMA program inspired the new guidelines. The guidelines stated that villages are responsible for maintenance and operation costs, and cost-sharing is expected for capital costs. Nineteen Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Authorities have operated in big urban centers since 1997 under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Water. The MoU contains performance indicators that were to be reported to the Ministry.

Short-Lived Privatization in Dar es Salaam (2003 to 2005)

After the World Bank’s condition that the government privatises water services to be granted aid, in August 2003, City Water Services Limited, a British-German conglomerate, was awarded a 10-year lease contract to manage Dar es Salaam’s water supply infrastructure. The company took over responsibility for operating the water system, tariff collection, routine maintenance, and billing, while DAWASA remained responsible for expanding and rehabilitating the water network. Two years later, the contract was terminated due to poor performance and breach of contract.

Responsibility for Sanitation and Water Supply in Tanzania

Ministries define water and sanitation policies and strategies at the national level; a National Council is in charge of environmental regulation, a national authority regulates the economic provision of services, and different local entities are in charge of service provision.

Policy and Regulation

Legal Framework

The legal framework for sanitation and water supply in Tanzania is anchored on the Water Supply and Sanitation Act Nr. 12 that was enacted in May 2009. The Act stipulates the responsibilities of government authorities involved in the water sector, organizes Sanitation and Water Supply Authorities as commercial bodies, and permits their clustering where it leads to improved commercial viability. It also allows the operation and registration of Community Owned Water Supply Organizations and coordinates the appointment of board members.

Responsibilities of Institutions Nationally


The Ministry of Water and Irrigation is the body responsible for overall WSDP policy setting, evaluation, monitoring, regulating, and coordinating community water supplies. The Ministry of Social Welfare and Health is in charge of sanitation and hygiene promotion. With the decentralization of the Tanzanian sanitation and water sector, the responsibilities of service provision have been transferred to LGAs (Local Government Authorities). LGAs consist of 132 district, town, and municipal councils responsible for the management, monitoring, and financing of service providers in their respective administrative areas. The Prime Minister’s Office – Regional Administration and Local Government (PMO-RALG) advise them in this regard. PMO-RALG plays a vital coordination role in planning and capacity building for local authorities. It also allocates resources for service delivery. The Regional Secretariat renders technical support to Local Government Authorities and supervises their activities.

Other ministries also play an active role in the sector of sanitation and water supply in Tanzania. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs is in charge of intra-government funding and is responsible for the overall budgeting and planning, including the sanitation and water sector. The Ministry of Education and Vocational training is in charge of hygiene education and sanitation in schools. Sector ministries oversee the use of water resources for energy generation, irrigation, and industrial use.

Partnership Between Ministries

In 2009, the PMO-RALG, the Ministry of Education and Vocal Training, and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the integrated implementation of hygiene and sanitation activities. The MoU aimed to aid their cooperation and coordination in carrying out their duties related to hygiene and sanitation. Cooperation will happen through various special committees that have been set up.

Economic Regulation

The Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority regulates commercial water service providers. The agency was created in 2001 by the Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority Act, Cap 414. The agency is in charge of licensing, standards, and performance monitoring, as well as tariff review and approval. It began operating in the water sector in 2006.

Environmental Regulation

The National Environment Management Council is in charge of evaluating potential environmental impacts on proposed project locations. This is done as part of the Environmental and Social Management Framework. The National Environment Management Council sets standards, and issues permits for the release of effluents into the environment, including into water resources.

Policies and Strategies

The National Water Sector Development Strategy 2006 to 2015 lays out a strategy for the implementation of the National Water Policy of 2002. The policy aims to achieve sustainable growth in the sector through the efficient use of resources of water supply in Tanzania and efforts to improve the availability of sanitation and water services. The principles of localization and decentralization of management and services guide the policy.

The National Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Programme 2006 to 2025 aims to bring about a policy framework for the provision of sustainable and equitable water access to 65 percent of the rural population by the year 2010, 74 percent by 2015, and 90 percent by 2025. The programme is another iteration of the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project piloted in 2002. The Ministry of Water runs the programme, and it includes goals for institutional reorganization and a focus on data collection and monitoring via a Management Information System. As of 2008, progress has been minimal because of challenges related to bureaucratic delay, lack of oversight, and lack of sufficient capital.

The National Water Sector Development Programme of 2006 to 2005 centres on the provision of commercial service, including the participation of the private sector in urban locations and community management and ownership in rural areas. The programme also aims to implement ”demand-driven approaches.” The first phase was meant to last until 2012 before it was extended. The programme aims to promote the integration of sanitation and water supply in Tanzania with hygiene education. The four components of the programme are:

  • Management of water resources
  • Capacity building and institutional development
  • Rural sanitation and water supply – comprehensive sanitation and district water supply are to be developed
  • Urban sanitation and water supply – with the aim of executing utility business plans in the district and regional capitals as well as implementing the national and small towns water schemes

Sanitation and water policies in Tanzania are developed according to the Development Vision 2025 and the National Strategy for Growth and Poverty Reduction, popularly known by its Kiswahili name MKUKUTA. One of the objectives Vision 2025 aims to realize is universal access to safe water by empowering the local government and involving the private sector. The second cluster of MKUKUTA recognizes the importance of adequate sanitation and water supply. (“Improvement of social well-being and quality of life”). One of the primary aims is to bring about better access to safe, affordable, and clean water, a safe and sustainable environment, decent shelter, and sanitation.

Service Provision

Urban Areas

In two districts of Pwani Region and Dar es Salaam the responsibility of sanitation and water supply is divided between a company that runs the sewer and water system daily and charges the customers (DAWASCO – Dar es Salaam Water and Sewage Corporation – with a staff of around 1,500) and an asset holding company responsible for capital investments (DAWASA – the Dar es Salaam Water and Sewage Authority – with a staff of about 60). DAWASCO operates under a ten-year lease contract with DAWASA. The agreement is similar to the lease contract DAWASA had signed with a multi-national private company in 2003 as part of an unsuccessful privatization attempt. The institutional splitting of operations and asset owners is, therefore, a legacy of the privatisation attempt. Inadequate supply of pipe-borne water, particularly in poor squatter neighbourhoods and settlements, has forced residents of Dar es Salaam to find complementary water sources to meet their daily needs. These include illegal pumping, buying water from vendors that resell at 15 to 25 times the official price, as well as illegal connection. According to estimates, only 30 percent of residents of Dar es Salaam are legally connected to the utility distribution line, while 29 percent of water supplied is from illegal activities.

In other places, UWSSAs (Urban Water and Sanitation Authorities) handle the operation, development, and maintenance of sewerage and water infrastructure. The body is an autonomous legal entity meant to operate according to commercial principles. UWSSAs have been created in 19 major urban cities per the Waterworks Act No. 8 of 1997. The 19 UWSSAs are split into three groups from A to C in descending order of cost recovery. As of 2010, they were divided into the following groups:

Group A (13 utilities):

  • Arusha
  • Dodoma
  • Iringa
  • Mbeya
  • Moshi
  • Musoma
  • Morogoro
  • Mwanza
  • Mtwara
  • Tabora
  • Songea
  • Shinyanga and
  • Tanga

Group B (4 utilities)

  • Singida
  • Bukoba
  • Sumbawabga and
  • Kigoma

Group C:

In small towns and districts, there are close to 100 public service providers known as DUWSSAs (District Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Authorities). MoWI initiated a process of clustering them in 2007. The clustering was aimed at improving the efficiency and quality of service. However, clustering had made little progress as of 2012. This is due to the fact that it works against the current overall decentralisation process. Donor agencies like GIZ have therefore stopped supporting clustering.

Urban and district water utilities are not involved in on-site sanitation; the responsibility is left to the local councils.

Rural Areas

COWSOs (Community Owned Water Supply Organisations) provide sanitation and services of water supply in Tanzania’s rural areas. They were created through the local government framework of village councils after the Water Sector Development Strategy was adopted. As of 2007, 8,934 of 10,639 villages had a Water Committee dealing with sanitation and water sector matters. The responsibility of COWSOs is to maintain and operate the water supply systems on behalf of the community. COWSOs are expected to bear all the costs of maintaining and operating their water supply systems through charges imposed on consumers and add to their systems’ capital cost. However, insufficient technical training of community associations in maintenance and operations has caused disrepair and misuse of rural water systems, with 40 percent of rural water schemes suffering continuous non-functionality. Bulk grants given to local government authorities by the Regional Secretariat are the primary source of capital investment. Two major types of COWSOs exist. One is the Water User Associations which is in charge of water resources and resolving disagreements among water users; the other one is the Water Consumer Associations which is in charge of the supply of drinking water. As of 2006, more than 120 Water User Associations have been created. Officially, Water User Associations demand membership fees payment, development of by-laws and constitutions, and participation in meetings for leadership posts. However, regular member participation is still low because villagers instead choose to participate in informal associations because of the fewer requirements.

For instance, in Kilimanjaro Region’s Hai District, gravity systems from rainforest sources on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro serve 200,000 people in over 50 villages. The water systems were in a poor state until the early 1990s. Water quality was poor, local communities didn’t maintain the infrastructure, and there was no water supply in some systems. The situation was turned around by the national water policies of 2002 and 1991, which emphasized local ownership and participation and payment for metering and water. Coupled with investments funded as part of a development partnership with Germany, the new system brought massive improvements. The system particularly benefitted from the local culture of self-help. Nowadays, water systems are maintained and operated by workers of water supply trusts – the local term for a COWSO. Ten members make up each trust, 50 percent of which have to be women by law. The communities elect them. They hire managers for each water system, set tariffs, and manage their budget. The managers supervise accountants and technicians hired by the water committee. Tap agents sell water at public taps or provide to house connections that are metered. According to an evaluation conducted in 2002, waterborne diseases had substantially declined compared to the early 1990s, and that costs were now fully recovered. The supply of water was still continuous, and the quality of water was good as of 2009. The water committees were financially viable, with over 90 percent of customers paying for their water consumption.

Connection Between Informal and Formal Institutions

Traditional sanitation practices and water resource management are passed down from generation to generation as native ecological knowledge in rural areas with no formal water management or water systems. The distrust that exists between the government and the native groups due to the failed Free Water Policy causes a lack of conformity with official regulations. For instance, disagreements related to water supply in Tanzania at the village level are usually resolved informally instead of being brought to district and primary courts that they consider expensive, unjust, and time-consuming. Instead, traditional village elites like the mwanamijie in Sonjo villages carried out informal water management practices at the grassroots level. Rules including where and when water can be collected and fines or punishments when the rules are broken are connected closely to customs, cultural values, and local religious beliefs. Formal institutions without the capital and technical skill to maintain and build water systems in local communities can lighten their burden by taking advantage of the informal systems. However, the central government does not regard these systems as legitimate.

International aid bodies and formal institutions also place importance on the provisioning of potable water and ignore the other water needs of rural communities, including water supplies needed for washing, irrigation, and livestock. When treated water is only available in sufficient quantities for drinking, people persist in using traditional, contaminated sources for other activities. This results in the persistence of intestinal diseases and conflict over the availability of water. The lack of focus on these needs can be prevented when community stakeholders participate more in the process of the rural water system.

Civil Society

Civil societies also take part in the sanitation and water sector. TaWaSaNet was created in 2008. The network aims to strengthen the participation of civil societies in the sanitation and sector of water supply in Tanzania and ensure that policies are done equitably. Among the active NGOs in the Tanzanian water sector (mentioned in a MoWI report) are Concern Worldwide, The Netherlands Development Organisation, WaterAid, MSABI. Daraja, WWF, Plan International, Shahidi wa Maji, and Concern Worldwide.

Investment Planning and Decision-Making

The respective water departments are in charge of water investment planning for rural areas at the district level. In 2009, WaterAid examined the local government planning process for water investments in 4 out of Tanzania’s 99 rural districts – Nzega, Kongwa, Mpwapwa, and Iramba. Planning starts with long wish lists based on the demands from different villages. Since it is hard to identify real priorities, one of the criteria for selection is the balance of money available in the village water fund. This is viewed as a sign of community ownership and can be explained to villagers and councilors easily. Other alleged criteria include health statistics and data gotten from a waterpoint aping exercise. However, they are not prioritised in practice. Selection is made in a way that water projects are divided equally between the constituencies of the district’s MP. Furthermore, councilors direct projects to settlements in their wards. More dynamic councilors exert greater influence in this regard. Another criterion is the past track record in looking after infrastructure. In some areas, handpumps have been carted away, making it difficult to rationalize new investments. Communities near towns located on major roads or those that have existing social services have the upper hand in the decision-making process because of the reduced cost of providing infrastructure and the fact that officials visit them more often. According to the WaterAid report, better availability of statistics on infrastructures of water supply in Tanzania’s rural areas could help the representatives of underserved communities to push on behalf of their constituencies.

Public Opinion

Information about the opinion of Tanzanians about the sector of water supply was collected by the Afrobaromter Survey 2008. The responses illustrate the imbalance in access to clean and safe water between urban and rural areas – 51 percent of urban dwellers were satisfied with the efforts of the government to deliver sanitation services and water, compared to 39 percent in the rural areas. Consequently, rural Tanzanians consider the water sector a high priority for the government. Forty-four percent of respondents in rural areas named water supply as one of the three most pressing matters that should be attended to by the government (for 16 percent, it is the most important problem). In urban areas, water supply ranks third behind health and economic concerns in 25 percent of responses. The survey also explained corruption issues in the water sector – 4 percent of respondents confessed that they had to give a gift, pay a bribe, and in other cases do a favour to government officials to get water or sanitation services in the past year.

Economic Efficiency

Some common indicators of the economic efficiency of sewerage utilities and water are billing efficiency, labour productivity, and non-revenue water. According to these indicators, the economic efficiency or urban service provision in Tanzania’s water sector.

Billing Efficiency

According to government statistics, urban utilities have high levels of billing efficiency (never below 70 percent). However, a 2009 Public Expenditure Review indicated that 15 percent of the income of the 20 biggest utilities regulated by EWURA is not collected.

Non-revenue Water

The average level of non-revenue water among the 20 regional water utilities was 45 percent in the fiscal year 2006-2007. According to the Ministry of Irrigation and Water statistics in 2009, non-revenue water in urban areas varies between 25 percent in Tanga and 55 percent in Dar es Salaam. According to estimates, non-revenue water is higher in the district and small towns.

Labour Productivity

On average, there were ten staff members per 1,000 water connections in the large water utilities as of 2007. The lowest number in Tanzanian UWSSAs is six workers per 1,000 connections, obtained in Arusha, Mbeya, and Tanga. This figure is close to the average number of workers per 1,000 connections in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is five workers.


Cost Recovery and Tariffs

NAWAPO regards utilities as commercial entities that provide social and economic good. Therefore, it promotes maintenance and operational cost recovery as fundamental to sustainable services. Sanitation and authorities of water supply in Tanzania are expected to meet full operational and maintenance costs as well as 5 percent of capital costs. Water and Sanitation Authorities in urban areas are divided into three groups in line with how the efficiency of their cost recovery:

  • group A: authorities that offset all operational and maintenance costs, including energy costs, staff wages as well as some investment contributions;
  • group B: authorities that offset operational and maintenance costs but share energy costs with the government and can pay full salaries to permanent workers;
  • group C: authorities that need government help to offset their energy costs and to pay salaries to permanent workers.

The system was intended to act as motivation for utility companies to step up their performance. According to MoWI, out of the 20 regional UWSSAs, 14 belong to group A, four belong to group B, while utilities in Lindin and Babati fall under group V. However, the outcome of a study conducted by Tobias Swai of the University of Dar es Salaam suggested that UWSSAs belonging to group A are the least efficient despite being self-sustaining. EWURA statistics also indicate that out of the 20 regional utility companies, only two have an operating cost coverage rate significantly higher than one, meaning they can maintain the current level of service. Seven other utilities only manage to keep operating.

Tariff levels are set locally. However, EWURA, the national regulatory body, needs to approve it. UWSSAs determine tariffs in urban areas according to their funding needs and the category they belong to.  Respective district councils determine tariff levels in water supply projects run by LGAs without specific cost average targets. Generally, tariffs are low and haven’t been revised in a while. In 2008, the average water tariff in Dar es Salaam was US$0.46 or TZS599 per m3. The tariff in Lindi is the highest average water tariff in Tanzania – US$0.64 or TZS833 per m3. The average water tariff in urban areas was US$0.34 or TZS437.4 per m3.

Lindi town
Lindi town

UWSSAs are in charge of water metering. In Moshi, Dodoma, Arusha, Tanga, and Mwanza, all household connections are metered. In 11 other cities, the rate is above 50 percent. Lindi has the lowest metered connection rate of 26 percent. As of 2008, there were more than 331,000 total household connections in the areas served by regional utilities (almost doubling the 2007 figure of 169,000 metered connections). MoWI has identified water metre maintenance and associated costs as one of the critical issues for urban water suppliers.

An analysis of the 2007 household budget study shows that the richest quantile of Tanzanians spends more than $US3.01 (TZS4,000) for water monthly. This corresponds to around 1% of their income. People in the poorest quantile spend only around US$ 0.77 (TZS1,000) for water monthly. However, this corresponds to 4.5% of their income. One of the reasons why poor people spend less on water in absolute terms is because they get water for free from streams and wells. The data are not differentiated from urban and rural areas, although it is possible that the urban poor who don’t have access to free sources of water pay more than the ones in rural areas.

Investment and Financing

According to the Ministry of Irrigation and Water, the total budget for the sanitation and the sector of water supply in Tanzania in the fiscal year 2008/2009 was TZS28.5 billion (US$200 million). Only US$175 million was actually spent. For the fiscal year 2009/2010, a budget of TZS309.6 billion (US$238 million) was approved. Of this figure, 40.1 percent was allocated to rural water and sanitation, while 43.9 percent was allocated to urban water and sewerage. Institutional development and capacity building, and water resources management were allocated 7.4 percent and 8.5 percent of the budget, respectively. However, The United Nations Water Country Brief for Tanzania shows an estimate for average yearly drinking water and sanitation expenses from 2002 to 2011. According to the report, government investment expenses were only $30 million per year, including official development aid disbursements of $82 million per year. The figure is around seven times lower than the government figures for the fiscal year 2008-09. Expenditures varied substantially from year to year, with the highest expenditure recorded in 2008/2009.

A thorough analysis of the budget spending patterns can be found in the Public Expenditure Report of the Water Sector. It seems that a large chunk of the budget comprises development expenses, and just 15 percent are recurrent expenses (compared to 55 percent of development expenses in the government’s total budget). Moreover, the government’s decentralization policy has brought about a rapid increase in the budget allocations of regions and LGAs. In the fiscal year 2008/2009. LGAs’ share of the total budget of the water sector was around 25 percent, while regions had a 20 percent share. Conversely, an increasing portion of the central government’s budget is dedicated to feasibility studies, a reflection of the policy-setting and coordinating role MoWI is shifting.

Tanzania is one of the largest beneficiaries of foreign aid in Sub-Saharan Africa. This includes help in the form of concessional loans, debt relief, and grants. The Joint Assistance Strategy (JAST) approved in 2006 guides aid management in Tanzania. JAST is dedicated to implementing the principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. It presses for the pooling together of all development funds into the budget of the government, encourages national ownership, and calls for a “division of labour” among donors. However, the Public Expenditure Report indicates that not all water sector spending is included in the government budget. A comparison between data from the Ministry of Finance and OECD shows that there are inconsistencies between both sources. This means that there has been off-budget financing of around 26 percent of total bilateral aid in the last five years. According to a MoWI report, 88 percent of the funds budgeted for the sanitation and water sector will be gotten from foreign transfers.

External Cooperation

Tanzania gets external aid from many donor agencies. They are divided into the aid effectiveness group, and the Development Partners Group targeted at enhancing donor harmonization. Sector dialogue between the Development Partners Group and the Ministry of Water and Irrigation is done through four workgroups covering hygiene, sanitation, and water issues.

The European Commission, the African Development Bank (AFDB), the World Bank, the Netherlands, and Germany are the five main donors in the Tanzanian sanitation and water sector. Within the scope of the Joint Assistance Strategy, the World Bank, the Tanzanian government, the Dutch Government, and Germany contribute to the WSDP Basket Fund. The fund is a form of a Sector-Wide Approach. Other donors include Japanese JICA, Switzerland, Belgium, USA (MCC and USAID), French AFD, UK (DFID).

African Development Bank (AfDB)

AfDB finances three projects in the sector of sanitation and water supply in Tanzania. Initiated in 2001, Dar es Salaam Water Supply and Sanitation focuses on improving the quality, reliability, and accessibility of sanitation and water supply in Dar es Salaam. Approved in 2003, the Monduli District Water Supply Programme is aimed at securing sustainable and adequate access to safe drinking water for the people of 18 villages in the Monduli District. AfDB gave a grant of around $10 million that covered the cost of 90 percent of the project. The AfDB and other donor bodies have been contributing to the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Programme since 2006. The programme aims to improve rural communities’ access to sanitation and water services as well as improving institutional capacity at the government and district level – to undertake demand-based rural sanitation and water projects.

European Commission (EC)

The European Commission (EC) supports the sector of sanitation and water supply in Tanzania through the European Development Fund National Indicative Programme and the EU Water Initiative. For a total of 20.8 million euros, 13 projects jointly funded by the Water Initiative were being implemented at the end of 2008. EU cooperation in the sanitation and water sector focuses on poor people in urban and peri-urban areas. The European Union committed around 33 million euros to the Water Supply Programme to Regional Centres, co-financed by German financial cooperation. The programme’s primary aim was to improve access to sustainable quality water supply in Tanzania as well as wastewater management services in the three regional centres of Iringa, Mbeya, and Mwanza. Additional funds totalling around 6.6 million euros were disbursed for the Mwanza Sewerage Rehabilitation Project from 2000 to 2004. The aim of the project was to avert the overflow of raw sewage into Lake Victoria from Mwanza. Rural sanitation and water are funded through the European Union general budget line for co-funding NGOs in developing countries.

View of the city of Mbeya with mountains in the background
View of the city of Mbeya with mountains in the background


Germany has been cooperating with the government to improve sanitation and water supply in Tanzania since the 1970s. GIZ and KfW mainly carry out German Development Cooperation in the country. From 2007 to 2009, KfW made 17.25 million euros available to the Water Basket. KfW is also active in many regional and national projects in Tanzania. For instance, KfW supported the project Supporting Regional Centre’s Water Supply with 21 million euros. The project was situated in the rapidly growing towns of Mwanza and Mbeya. An investment plan and feasibility report were also prepared for Iringa, where work started in 2006. The project’s objective was to improve water supply, sewerage, and sanitation services by strengthening the capacity of independent urban water supply bodies. To accomplish this, water supply facilities have been rehabilitated and extended, capacity-building measures, including improvement of the system used for billing, have been carried out, and sanitation facilities have been improved.

GIZ helps in the development of local capacity in the sector. It extends its help to EWURA, the Ministry, and commercial service providers in Kilimanjaro and Tanga Region.


In 2012, the government of India gave a $178 million loan to implement water projects to mitigate the scarcity of water in Dar es Salaam by 2014. The loan will fund an increase in the capacity of the Upper Ruvu plant to 196,000 m3 from the present 82,000 m3 a day. It will also finance the construction of a new transmission line from the plant to the city. Some parts of the city got water twice a week as of 2012, while others didn’t get any.

The Netherlands

The Dutch government funded the WSDP Water basket (via a mandate to KfW). In addition, the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV) supports three major areas of the sector of sanitation and water supply in Tanzania: (a) capacity building in IWRM (b) enhancing the functionality of extant water points with water point mapping (done in partnership with WaterAid) and (c) support to water, hygiene and sanitation activities in schools.

United States

The United States provides a $6.3 million grant for financing the expansion of the Lower Ruvu Plant, which supplies water to Dar es Salaam from 180,000 m3 to 270,000 m3 daily, as well as cutting down non-revenue water and rehabilitate two water treatment plants in Morogoro. In addition, USAID/Tanzania financed a three-year US$15 million Tanzania Integrated Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (iWASH) programme, which included support from the Water and Development Alliance partnership between The Coca-Cola Company and USAID. The programme started in January 2010, and funding was initially extended through 2013 and subsequently through 2015 (with additional financing of US$4.6 million). WADA II, a two-year supplemental programme, started in 2010 and was extended to August 2013 through funding from the Global Environment Technology Fund (GETF).  The integrated program (iWASH) supports sustainable, hygiene, and sanitation services to improve health and increase the economic resiliency of the poor in selected rural areas and small towns within the framework of integrated water resource management and market-driven water supply in Tanzania.

World Bank

The World Bank supports Tanzania extensively. World Bank approved the 7th Poverty Reduction Support Credit in December 2009. It was the fourth in a series of five annual budget support operations for the implementation of MKUKUTA. The 7th Poverty Reduction Support Credit entailed a $170 million commitment. The World Bank committed $20 million to the Water Sector Support Project from 2007 to 2012. The project includes four components (a) supporting LGAs to scale up the provision of water and sanitation services in rural areas in line with the Millenium Development Goals; (b) enhancing institutional capacity to improve water resources management; (c) supporting institutional capacity building, including policy re-alignment and sector coordination; and (d)supporting Dar es Salaam and all district and regional capitals, and gazette small town utilities in scaling up the provision of water and sanitation services in urban areas. Also, the World Bank-controlled Water and Sanitation Programme is active in Tanzania. The programme supports hygiene and sanitation.

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