Achieving universal access to sufficient water is becoming more challenging as climate change exacerbates water insecurity. Previous studies of water insecurity and climate-related hazards recommend understanding how people perceive and manage water-related risks. By uniquely combining protection motivation theory and photovoice, we explore water infrastructure's function in rural Kenyan households’ perception and mitigation of water-related risk. We find that infrastructure construction provides a sense of security, regardless of long-term management plans. During the dry season, built infrastructure's viability to mitigate risk is strained due to natural infrastructure's unreliability. In the context of limited built infrastructure, natural infrastructure, though unimproved, is necessary for water security. In the expected absence of large-scale infrastructure projects, for water authorities in rural Kenya, we recommend the construction of small-scale infrastructure to increase reliance upon rainwater harvesting and lessen the strain on other built infrastructure during the dry season. Coupling our method with an itemized scale can help explain discrepancies between actual insecurity and individuals’ responses to help water authorities predict interventions’ effectiveness and inform the division of responsibilities in policies intended to promote sustainable infrastructure management. We also recommend our method for assessing water infrastructure's role among households managing multiple climate-related risks to expand the resilience of the infrastructure.