Article by James Mwangi
Water is a finite resource which is fundamental to life. It has no viable substitute. However, latest trends show that water resources management throughout the country reflects the uncertain future of natural water supplies. Longer drought spells should mean that communities make a concerted effort in managing available water resources and, use reserves harvested during rain seasons when rivers run low; this unfortunately is not the case.
During the months of July-August 2015, LWF reported that a majority of perennial rivers flowing in and out of Laikipia, including; Ontulili, Nanyuki, Naromoru, Upper Ewaso Nyiro, Mutara, Suguroi, and Pesi, were drying up exceptionally fast, irrespective of this being a dry season. The river sources from Mount Kenya and Abardares Ranges experienced reduced flow due to over abstraction by residents in order to meet an extremely high demand of water for domestic and irrigation use.
If water was harvested and stored during rain seasons, communities would see reduced cases of illegal abstractions and wastage of water during the dry seasons. There is also unaccounted water loss from natural water sources to residential areas, from numerous leakages on roads and illegal connections. Inefficient use of water, such as flood irrigation through furrows also reduces access to water during dry spells.
Furthermore; Laikipia, Samburu and Isiolo Counties utilise multiple shared river and ground water aquifers that result in an interdependent relationship that could either foster cooperation or exacerbate conflict, which should be a strong incentive to ensure the success of water management through improved transboundary governance and cooperation.
There is a need to upscale endogenous conservation initiatives in the region through the progressive work of Water Resources Users Associations (WRUAs) and Community Forest Associations (CFAs). WRUAs have struggled to attain financial sustainability despite their great effort and commitment in managing transboundary water sources. They implement water rationing programs during the dry seasons, protect water sources and resolve water conflicts between downstream and upstream water users. The County governments have worked and continue to play a part in promoting WRUAs. It is encouraged that these same governments should begin to value the WRUA’s efforts and allocate resources to support the development of these institutions.
Article by James Mwangi