This paper examines the willingness to pay for and participate in volunteer activities for the restoration of the Sosiani River in Eldoret, Kenya. The willingness to pay is examined through two scenarios which differ in the organizations conducting the proposed project. The study focuses on factory workers situated in textile industries and lay people living in the area, who are divided into two groups: respondents living downstream, who are situated mostly in town centers and at the mid/lower parts of the river and the respondents living upstream, mainly found at the upper parts of the River Sosiani. The study employs the double‐hurdle model to identify the factors that influence the willingness to pay (WTP) for improved water quality in the area. An ordinal regression model is used to analyze the willingness to participate and its influencing factors. The results of the study show that an average of 74.4% of the 279 respondents studied were willing to pay for river restoration in the area. The mean willingness to pay for the government proposed scenario was KSh 182.51 (1.66$) per household/month and KSh 169.28 (1.54$) per household/month for a non‐governmental proposed project. Within the groups upstream and downstream, inhabitants had higher mean scores for a non‐government project as compared to a government project, while the reverse was observed in the factory group. The empirical results of this study show that risk perception, trust and socio‐demographic variables were significant factors on the stated amount and the decision to participate of the respondents. The characteristics of respondents with zero WTP, who comprised a significant amount of the respondents (25.6%), are also analyzed in depth shaping the recommendations of this study. The empirical results show that the number of years lived in the community is a major determinant on willingness to participate and pay for environmental restoration projects in the area. The results of this study could influence decision makers in general and have potential implications that can be applied in other sectors not necessarily related to water issues.