Dry times and drought-like conditions are putting tremendous strains on Laikipia’s river systems. Upstream and downstream water users must collaborate and coordinate their water use if river systems, wildlife, livestock and people are to survive.
ON 10TH Feb 2015, the Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF) together with Lower Ewaso Narok Water Resources Users Association and Water Resources Management Authority Rumuruti office organized a meeting of stakeholders and water users to discuss the continuous depletion of water in the river. The WRUA had reported on 26th January that there was almost zero flow of water at the regular gauging station 5AC8 near Loisaba ranch. Alerts were put out by downstream communities about the risks of conflicts arising as a consequence of lost water flow.
LWF facilitated the meeting that brought by all the water users within the sub catchment and other WRUAs managing watersheds that drain into Ewaso Narok River. LWF led the discussions and action planning that resulted to help regulate and control water usage within the catchment in accordance with the Water Act 2002.
The Act clearly states that water prioritization is first used to satisfy basic human needs and protect aquatic ecosystems and domestic use ahead of all other waters uses from that body of water.
The meeting was attended by over 100 water users within the LENWRUA. Upper Zone WRUAs, namely Melwa, Nyahururu, Oraimutia, Lake Olboisat, Pesi, Ndivai and Equator represented the upper watershed of the Ewaso Narok River. Attending were also representatives from the Laikipia County Government, the Ministry of Internal Security, the Provincial Administration, and the Ministry of Fisheries. The information sharing and discussion sessions were aimed at the current water situation, and we developed a way forward with the aim of conserving and safeguarding the river reserves.
The main challenges contributing to the current situation were: over-abstraction of water by permit holders during the dry seasons; illegal abstraction by portable pump users; lack of water rationing by the upstream users resulting in uncontrolled water abstraction, incorrect tree species planted along the water course (eucalyptus in particular), illegal water use by the prisons department through their wasteful irrigation methods of broken furrows and flooding of their farmland; wasteful water use from the bridge area in Rumuruti to feed the farming activities at the prisons and the fisheries department.
Meeting Participants agreed that small-scale farmers would reduce their irrigable area and adopt rationing programmes. The upstream WRUAs agreed to initiate rationing programmes to ensure the river reserves were safeguarded. WRMA was tasked to close the furrow from the bridge to the prisons and fisheries until such a time when the owners had filed the necessary applications for permits. WRMA was also asked to issue letters to commercial farmers and major abstractors to inform them of the current situation and instruct them to strictly adhere to their allocation during the low river water flows.
A Task Force was set to work with WRUA and WRMA to ensure the tasks noted above were done, and to also monitor the river water levels. This task force was comprised of 15 WRUA members, 5 from each zone. LWF, Ward Administrators, and senior chiefs would support the Task Force team to ensure it meets its objectives.
After the meeting, it was agreed that there was need to ensure that every water user fulfills its role and responsibilities to conserve water use during the dry seasons. Most participants were disappointed by the failure of the prisons department to attend the meeting while it was very clear that their farming activities had adversely affected the available river flow. Also, commercial farmers practicing horticulture upstream of Rumuruti farms had failed to attend the meeting. WRMA, local and the national government representatives were asked to make follow ups with these water users to ensure their activities does not compromise the efforts to conserve the river flow at this critical time of the year.
At the end, it was clear that WRMA and WRUAs forged the goodwill of water users to reduce their water usage until such a time that the situation improves. As a result, the WRUA has reported increased water flow downstream. LWF is dedicated to sustaining this effort during this dry season, and beyond.