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Uganda: Delivery and Management of Water and Sanitation

Last Updated: Oct 2009
IDA at Work: Water - Quality Water Supply for Uganda's Small Towns


Two decades of political and economic turmoil severely eroded the living standards that Ugandans had enjoyed in the initial years after achieving independence in1962. By 1986, government health expenditure was one-tenth the 1970s level, and one-quarter of the investment level for infrastructure. Lack of essential services fostered the spread of waterborne diseases. Rural water coverage improved from 24 percent in 1990 to 55 percent in 2000 but left much to be done. Sanitation coverage edged up more slowly from 44 percent to 52 percent during the same time frame.


In 1997 the Government of Uganda decided dramatic change was needed in basic service delivery to the poor, and with IDA and other development partners support Uganda embarked on a new course. An extensive and participatory poverty assessment, detailed sector analysis, and structured stakeholder consultations at both the central and local government levels were conducted to prepare the country’s first Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP). This set the stage for drafting the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) of 2000, which defined Uganda’s development agenda, including plans for accelerated water supply and sanitation (WSS) services. Starting in 2001, all WSS services to urban centers, small towns and rural communities were directed through the government budget process. Policy reforms for implementing that decision shifted the focus to community demand for and decentralized implementation and management of services, with the private sector taking a lead role in delivery of goods and services while government facilitated the process and concentrated on developing an effective framework for regulation and quality assurance. Investments for rural water supply were also channeled through a system of conditional grants to sector institutions at the local government level on a rolling three-year basis.


Making the Water Supply and Sanitation sector a priority in the PEAP/PRSP process tripled the budgetary flow of resources for the sector, improving performance. Rural water supply coverage climbed from 55 percent in 2000 to 63 percent in 2008, which exceeds the Millennium Development Goal target of 62 percent. Urban water supply has followed course, surpassing the MDG target as coverage rose from 60 percent in 2002 to 71 percent in 2008.

- During 2003–08, the government and its water and sanitation sector agencies have met all policy benchmarks and service delivery targets, with 90 percent utilization of budgeted resources averaging US$60 million per year.
- Budgetary resources for Rural Water Supply pass directly to 81 local water districts based on a formula and a set of guidelines agreed upon and implemented by the Directorate of Water Development.
- Over 3,000 rural water points (such as protected springs, deep boreholes and shallow wells fitted with hand pumps, rainwater collection facilities, and standposts for piped water) are delivered each year, bringing improved coverage to 700,000 more people. With parallel and decentralized implementation in all 81 districts, this is one of the largest rural water and sanitation programs in Africa.
- About 69 small towns with piped water systems were officially listed as urban water and sewerage authorities and placed under a regime of six umbrella private sector service contracts—about 80 percent of the towns are currently under private sector management using local Ugandan operators.

- Spot checks of water points showed that 83 percent in rural areas and 82 percent in small towns were functioning properly.
-Access to sanitation services has risen from 52 percent of the rural population in 2000 to 62 percent in 2008.


-IDA’s primary contribution to the development of Uganda’s water and sanitation sector since 2001 has come through partnership with other development donors to provide direct budget support using a series of Poverty Reduction Support Credits (PRSCs). The current seventh PRSC is the third and final annual budget support operation for Uganda’s third Poverty Eradication Action Plan as the transition is made to the National Development Plan for 2009/10–2013/14. PRSC 8, under preparation, is expected to support the budget of 2009/10.

Next Steps

PRSC impact on water supply and sanitation services will continue to be assessed to guide the design of future programs and interventions. Despite the achievements in the sector thus far, the distribution of benefits across local districts has been uneven, showing the need to strengthen the regulatory, operational and maintenance frameworks of WSS systems to ensure sustained functionality. More resources are also needed if coverage rates are to increase further, some of which must come from good governance and from greater operational efficiency and sound targeting of investment to help systems defray more of their costs.

Learn More

Small Towns Water and Sanitation Project (1994- 2003)
Project documents

For more information, please visit the Projects website.

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