Disaster looming as the country's rivers dry up at alarming rate

River Kuja in Nyatike, March 24, 2018. The river is among several others across the country facing an uncertain future. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

This is also the case of River Nyanchwa that has now gone completely dry. For several decades, River Nyanchwa was the source of livelihoods for several families before it dried up.

The source of the river at Getacho in Kisii town has dried up, forcing locals to source for water from other streams and springs.

River Nyakomisaro that cuts along Kisii University and through Kisii town is a pale showdown of itself. The water has been displaced by raw sewage from the ever growing town.

Its flow has also been affected by storey buildings constructed along the river.

Recent reports indicate that most families still rely on streams, rivers and springs for water, further piling pressure on the limited water resources.

Records at the Gusii Water Company indicate that less than 10 per cent of households have piped water, nearly 60 per cent depend on river water and 20 per cent on springs for daily life.

Samson Bokea, an environmentalist and a former director at the National Environment Management Authority (Nema), said the number of households depending on piped water is alarmingly low.

"Water needs should be well catered for so as to realise sustainable agriculture, industrialisation and ecosystem health."

A report by the Nyamira County Government Department of Water and Environment shows that one person in the country needs 1,000 cubic metres of water a year.

But due to failure to conserve water sources, only 500 cubic metres are available per person per year.

Kisii County Nema Director Leonard Offula said more than 40 per cent of wetlands and riparian areas have been destroyed in the area through encroachment.

"Human settlement, plantation and eucalyptus trees and brick making are the leading forms of destruction. There is also an issue of schools that have been built on those gazetted and protected land," he said.

In Coast region, Lake Jipe, one of the iconic lakes in the country, is on the verge of extinction, with the water volume in the lake reducing at an alarming speed.

The lake is an important trans-boundary wetland ecosystem on the border of Kenya and Tanzania that covers an estimated 30 square kilometres.

According to various studies, the factors contributing to the lake's extinction include drought, deforestation, overgrazing and invasive water weeds.

During a consultative meeting in Voi, Taita Taveta County, stakeholders heard that the reduced water volume is affecting wildlife conservation and fishing.

A pupil at Napeikore Primary School in Tiaty, Baringo, sucking a dry tap hoping to quench his thirst, January 30, 2019. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

However, unlike Sabor where water is distributed using gravity, water from Yagot dam have to be pumped using electricity, hence a costly venture for the county. "We are currently working with water rationing programme to meet the demand of our customers. Initially, Sabor water was enough, but from the end of November, the dam began drying," he said.

Kiplagat said the electricity costs from pumping water from Yogot dam has prevented them from scaling up water supply without increasing charges to consumers.

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Wesley Rotich said by 1pm Sabor dam dries completely until the following day and pumping of water has to be suspended.

"I have been receiving calls from school heads across the county asking for water to be delivered to their institutions through the county water boozers, which unfortunately is expensive," Rotich noted.

He said the main cause of water shortage, especially in Sabor dam, is the destruction of catchment areas.

In Kisumu, several streams have dried up. Water levels at River Kajulu have reduced, forcing Kisumu Water and Sanitation Company to ration the commodity.

[Stories by Eric Abuga, Renson Nyamwezi and Christopher Kipsang]