Water for irrigation purposes remains a top priority for majority of farmers living in the upstream of Upper Ewaso Ngiro North Basin. This is mostly because farming is the major livelihood for these communities. The Basin’s climate is characterized by frequent droughts and floods and does not favor this livelihood. As a result, farmers rely on irrigation to sustain their crop and animal production. The source for this water is perennial rivers, tributaries to the Ewaso Ng’iro River.
The projected annual surface water deficit for ENNB is 2,442 Million Cubic Metre by 2030 (National Water Master Plan).
This will be more than 3000% increase from the 2010 deficit of only 68 MCM. At this rate of rise, the deficit in the years to 2030 will be highest in the whole country.
The Water Resources Authority, therefore, has the greatest water balance and demand management challenge in this catchment area.
Water allocation and use management in the Upper Basin have unique challenges because of the distribution of water availability and land use. The Basin’s water resources are concentrated in the southwestern and southeastern part of the catchment area where two of Kenya’s water towers are found (Aberdare and Mt. Kenya). Correspondingly there is high population density and settlement in this part of the catchment. Most of the water resources are therefore intensively used in the upper part of the catchment for agricultural use with the net effect of high competition and conflict.
The Water Act 2016 and the Water Resource Management rules of 2007 are the national policies for management and regulation of water use. Water resource allocation is provided in these rules. The particular challenge is to decide how much water, and of what quality, should be reserved for the maintenance of ecosystems through an “environmental flow allocation”, how much for basic human requirements and how much water can be allocated for domestic uses, agriculture and industry.
Environmental flow is defined as the river water available 95% of the time on the river all year round. This flow is not allocated for any abstraction by mechanical means i.e. pumps, pipes or furrows. Basically, this water is for all and should be preserved to support the river ecosystem, including the people, livestock, wildlife, riparian vegetation, aquatic life, in essence, all living things.
Technically, a domestic water supply should not abstract water from the environmental flows. Instead, it should be shut down and have the users fetch water with drums or jerrycans from the river where everyone including wildlife and aquatic life has equal access.
You don’t pay anything to access environmental flows. (Nobody should charge you for taking water from a river with a mutungi.)
Normal flow is defined as the river water available 80% of the time on the river all year round. The flow is allocated for domestic abstraction purposes. Domestic water abstraction is through domestic water supply schemes like the NAWASCOs and community water projects with domestic water use.
To access this water, you require a permit issued by water resources authority. The acquire the permit, you require to carry out a hydrological assessment report to inform whether there is available water for allocation and an environmental impact assessment to inform what environmental impacts are expected from your application. You must install a permanent abstraction point and install a water meter to monitor use. Water abstracted from this point must be paid to WRA as water fees.
Flood flow is defined as the river water available 50% of the time on the river all year round. It is the flow allocated for irrigation use and other commercial purposes. This flow is available during the rainy season. To access and use this flow, you require a permit from WRA and must pay water use fees. The permit application process is supported by a hydrological assessment report and an EIA report. You are also required to install a permanent abstraction point with designs and levels for offtake pipes approved by WRA to ensure you only access the flood flows (self-regulated abstraction). Further, you require flow measuring devices (water meters) and a closing device (gate or sluice valve).
Water use fees are paid to WRA based on water meter readings.
Precipitation determines whether a river has flood flows or not. The rivers in the Ewaso Basin flood during the March April May rainfalls and the October, November December rainfalls. Within the catchment, farmers require minimum irrigation during these periods of the year. The other months of the year are either normal or environmental flows. However, this is the time farmers require water to irrigate their cabbages, onions, peas and so on. Crops grown during the dry seasons fetch better prices and hence the increase demand.
To practically benefit with flood flows, you are therefore required to abstract and put the abstracted water into storage for use during the dry seasons. Without water storage, farmers can’t practically do irrigation when they need to. Also, farmers need efficient technologies to safe and conserve the stored water to sustain crop growth for at least 3 months. The traditional flood irrigations are wasteful and unsustainable in these conditions. Drip technology is the most efficient application.
Less than 5% of farmers practising irrigated agriculture have water storage and most lack the efficient technologies for water application. Few practice conservation agriculture and everyone remains particularly vulnerable to climate change.
Mutara WRUA Case
Mutara WRUA has been working for the last 2 years on managing the growing water demand for irrigation.
Our abstraction survey report in 2019 recorded 257 illegal water abstractors with no permits. 4 irrigation schemes supplying water to 6 community water projects were destroyed by WRA in 2019 due to lack of permits. These abstractions have rendered Mutara River, whose hydrological data shows is a perennial river, to a seasonal river, which only sustains its river flows to the confluence on Ewaso Narok during the rainy seasons. Downstream communities, wildlife and the general ecosystem are therefore left without water for their lives. This has made this sub-catchment a water conflict hotspot in the Upper Ewaso Basin.
Collaboration between the WRUA and local stakeholders (WRA, Nyandarua and Laikipia Counties, FFI, OPC and LWF) has resulted in a plan to ensure equity in water allocation to comply with water abstraction rules and to meet growing demand.
To legalize water use within the sub-catchment, a common intake must be constructed. The intake is designed to address the water allocation for approximately 90% of water users within the Mutara sub-catchment.
The intake design is self-regulating and ensures that water allocation is in compliance with the WRM Rules and Guidelines. It does not allow any abstraction from the environmental flow of the river.
To complete this project, Mutara WRUA will need a total cost of Kes. 40,000,000. This includes the cost for construction of common intake, installation of water meters and sluice valves, 3 pipelines (each about 24kms), and construction of distribution tanks. The Mutara WRUA contribution to this project is Kes. 5,000,000.
The WRUA appeals for support with the balance of Kes. 35,000,000. Once this project is completed, it will be a case for best practice in the management of finite resource with exponential demand.
You can be part of this initiative and contribute to a success story by making a financial donation to Mutara WRUA. Contact the WRUA through email: email@example.com or mobile: 0725284095, or 0720024381. Or you can give through the MKEWP donation portal https://mms.laikipia.org/views/donate.php