Regulation as a means to ensuring CWIS in Zambia

Contributed by Chola Kasoma Mbilima, National Water Supply and Sanitation Council (NWASCO)

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Zambia like many other countries is making efforts to accelerate the provision of adequate sanitation to its people. Until recently, the focus for sanitation service provision and regulation was placed on a sewer system that could only serve the minority of the population. This was despite the clear mandate provided in the Law for both the service providers and the regulator, the National Water Supply and Sanitation Council (NWASCO), to deal with both onsite and offsite disposal of human excreta, including collection and treatment. Realizing this gap, NWASCO had to embark on a journey to institute regulation of On-Site Sanitation (OSS) and faecal sludge management (FSM). This journey began in 2016 with the development of regulations which culminated in the publishing of a framework for urban OSS and FSM regulation and service provision. The development of this framework was in the full realization that regulation of OSS services is multifaceted hence required multi-stakeholder coordination and collaboration. It therefore became imperative for NWASCO to depart from the traditional ‘unilateral command & control and incentive’ method of regulating to a delegated and participative method that encouraged stakeholder partnerships and relationships. This shift called for innovation and creativity on the parts of both the regulator and service providers.

Date of publication: September 2022

Geographic information



City and population:



  • Poor sanitation service delivery, particularly for the urban poor.
  • Lack of coordination.
  • Lack of data on the status of On-Site Sanitation (OSS) and faecal sludge management (FSM).
  • Indiscriminate pricing of OSS and FSM services.
  • Unsafe handling of sludge.
  • Lack of standards and regulations.
  • Limited capacity and experience for OSS and FSM service delivery and regulation.


  • Regulation of non-sewered sanitation that embraces the CWIS principles.

1. The Problem

In Zambia, the prevailing situation on OSS and FSM was due to inadequate coordination and agreement on the roles and responsibilities of various players across the sanitation service chain. There was no consensus on the state of OSS and FSM services as data was generally unavailable. The availability of accurate and reliable data is mandatory for effective regulation and service provision. Embarking on a transformation of OSS regulation and service provision required baseline data collection which is an expensive undertaking. Further, there were inadequate laws and standards for OSS and FSM. Handling and disposal of the waste was done indiscriminately with no regard to issues of health and safety for both humans and the environment. Similarly, pricing of the services was done indiscriminately with no regard for affordability and willingness to pay for services An enabling environment is integral to allow for impactful regulation and sustainable service provision. Several gaps and overlaps in legislation were identified that would make the regulation of OSS and FSM impractical. Gaps and overlaps in roles and responsibilities were then identified which hampered effective and inclusive sanitation service delivery. The sewer network coverage was only 39.4% of the served population with less than 5% from the low-income settlements (Urban and Peri-urban Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Report, 2021). Looking at the challenges that were inherent especially for the low-income settlements, it was impractical to get everyone connected to sewered systems; hence NWASCO had to get involved in issues to do with non-sewered sanitation. This required thinking through how to come up with a regulatory mechanism. However, both NWASCO and the service providers lacked capacity to embark on non-sewered regulation.

2. The solution

NWASCO developed the urban OSS and FSM service delivery and regulatory framework premised on CWIS principles, which stipulated new institutional arrangements with clear roles and responsibilities, as shown in Figure 3. Policy direction was inevitable to complement the regulatory framework hence NWASCO supported the government in policy review that culminated into the 2020 National Water Supply and Sanitation Policy. NWASCO amended the licenses and requisite documents from ‘Sewerage’ to ‘Sanitation’ Companies to emphasize the need to focus on both onsite and offsite sanitation services. As commercial utility companies could not handle all aspects of service delivery across the sanitation service chain, an option for delegated service delivery partnerships with the private sector or community organizations was provided. The service providers had to ensure that the delegated providers adhered to regulatory requirements. Permitting requirements for delegated service delivery were developed that saw formalization of illegal pit-emptiers. The permitting requirements have introduced regulation touching on health and safety of pit-emptiers considering that the emptying methods currently being used are predominately semi mechanized or manual.

3. Lessons Learned

Regulation is not a ‘one size fits all’: in the 20 years’ experience, NWASCO has learned that regulation is not a ‘one size fits all’. The regulator must take into consideration the dynamic environment by ensuring that it adapts, innovates and is creative to remain relevant. Experiences of others can be used to set up and develop tailored regulation. The regulator needs to invest in continuous capacity building, documenting and sharing of experiences.

 Traditional method of regulation may not be applicable: there are different stakeholders involved in OSS hence the traditional regulation methods are not feasible. In most countries the different aspects of OSS and FSM regulation is by law assigned to different stakeholders, hence regulation requires building of working partnerships with key stakeholders.

Regulators need to coordinate data collection and information management: without data, no form of regulation can take place. The regulator needs to take up the role of coordinating data management. This includes data collection, resource mobilization, execution of data collection processes, capacity building and creating integrated information management systems for evidence-based decision making.

About us

About the Author

Chola Kasoma Mbilima has over 15 years’ experience in water supply and sanitation regulation working with NWASCO. She specializes is governance, economic, technical and incentive regulation, skills development,
integrity management and gender mainstreaming. She has been instrumental in spearheading regulatory transformation to embrace CWIS through developing and implementing CWIS regulatory approaches.

About the institution / organisation

NWASCO is the regulator for water supply and sanitation service delivery in Zambia with 21 years’ experience. It regulates 11 commercial utility companies responsible for water and sanitation service provision in the country. NWASCO is anchored on strong regulatory governance that is premised on credibility, legitimacy, transparency and accountability.