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Counties commit to save the ‘drying’ tributaries of Ewaso Nyiro River to avert water conflicts

Three counties in central and northern Kenya have committed to save the drying tributaries of the mighty Ewaso Nyiro River after a three-day campaign that revealed the extent of threats facing water sources in the large basin.


Over 500 people, many of them community members, participated in the walk that was organized by WWF-Kenya with funding support from the Netherlands Embassy in Kenya through a project dubbed Catchment to Tap. 


Along the tributaries, the participants noted the extensive over-abstraction and illegal water connections for agricultural use as well as widespread poor irrigation methods that contribute to wastage of water and pollution as a result  of agrichemicals used in farms dotting the basin.


County government officials from Laikipia, Isiolo and Nyeri made the commitments aimed at reversing the challenges on Thursday, 8th June in Isiolo town at a town hall conference that was convened by WWF-Kenya. 


The meeting was a culmination of grueling three days of walking 20 km in three days along Timau, Nanyuki and Isiolo rivers which are major tributaries of the 700km Ewaso Nyiro River which drains into the Lorian Swamp.


Speaking at the conference, Leah Njeri, the Laikipia Executive Committee Member for Water, Environment and Natural Resources said the County Government will focus its energies on saving the Nanyuki River over the next one year. 


“We are going to pick a river, most likely Nanyuki River, and focus our resources and conserve our water sources. We will have another stakeholders’ forum,” said Ms Njeri. 


Njeri said she will lobby to have water companies take an active role in protection of the country's water resources.


Isiolo County, on the other hand, noted that it will sink 1o boreholes to tap groundwater. 


“Water is life and demand is increasing day by day. We are embarking on drilling boreholes to tap groundwater and sink 10 boreholes every financial year starting in Financial Year 2024,” said Godana Dida, Chief Officer, Water and Sanitation, Isiolo County.


Moreover, Nyeri County promised to undertake riparian conservation and catchment rehabilitation for three rivers, namely: Chania, Naromoru and Nairobi. 


“We’ll also be incorporating the Water Resources Users Association into our budget because we reviewed the County Water Act,” said Jeniffer Mugi, Chief Officer, Water Irrigation and Climate Change, Nyeri County. 


During the open forum, participants agreed on a list of recommendations, including calling for greater involvement of county and national leadership on sustainable management of water, promotion of best farming practices, enhancement of community sensitisation campaigns and tackling water pollution and over abstraction of water among other issues. 


Further, stakeholders called for the involvement of water companies in conservation and a more coordinated approach to integrated water resources management. 


In addition, the Kenya National Association of Water Resources Users Association also pledged to collaborate with the Kenya Forest Service and other stakeholders to establish zonation of forest reserves to allow for forest regeneration.


Lastly, the Mount Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership, a forum that brings together water actors in the basin, called on the National and County Governments as well as other stakeholders to provide financial,  technical and capacity building support to Water Resources Users Associations.


By Joel Muinde