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Tackling Kenya's Water Scarcity Challenges: Sand Dams as a Promising Solution

 Eng Leonard Ithui speaks on Spice FM during an interview on Monday, November 20. [Spice FM]

Kenyans are currently experiencing a deluge of El Niño rainwater, but experts are warning that the country must take proactive measures to conserve this precious resource.

In a recent interview on Spice Fm's morning show, The Situation Room, Leonard Ithui, the District Governor of Rotary International District 9212, urged both the government and Kenyan citizens to capitalize on the surplus of El Niño rainwater and store it for the inevitable dry days ahead. He stressed the crucial need for proactive water conservation measures.

"We need to have dams to store huge volumes because the volumes we have are so huge that can't be stored in domestic ponds," Ithui said. 

"We need to have drainage channels and catchment areas to divert excess water away from populated areas." He added. 

Ithui also highlighted the importance of individual initiatives such as installing gutters and water storage tanks at homes. He cited the Rotary Club of Nakuru as an example, noting that the club has provided gutters and 10,000L tanks to 8,000 homes in Nakuru County, significantly transforming communities and enabling economic activities. 

Given the historical pattern where El Niño is followed by prolonged dry periods, there is a looming risk of drought in Kenya next year. Recognizing this, there is an urgent call to take decisive action in preserving the current abundance of rainwater. Neglecting this invaluable resource could exacerbate the impact of future water shortages.

As Kenya enjoys the abundant El Niño rain, it prompts a timely re-evaluation of water management strategies and the adoption of sustainable practices. Actively storing rainwater now may prove to be a pivotal step in mitigating the challenges anticipated during the upcoming dry spell.

Ithui emphasized the need for a multi-pronged approach to water conservation. In addition to individual and community-level initiatives, he also called for the government to invest in large-scale water storage infrastructure, such as Sand dams and reservoirs. 

Highlighting the effectiveness of sand dams, Ithui emphasized their cost-efficiency in providing water over extended periods.

“Sand dams are really cost effective way of providing water for long period of time because the water is stored within the sand behind the dam, so there is less evaporation," he said.

He also pointed out that communities in extremely arid regions, such as Makueni and Kitui, can benefit significantly from this approach. 

Sand dams not only serve domestic water needs but also support irrigation activities throughout the dry periods, providing a sustainable solution to water scarcity in such challenging environments.

“The water quality is sustained because you don’t have cows defecating in the water and the community are able to abstract the water throughout the period both for home use and irrigation," Ithui added.

At the government level, Ithui called for investment in large-scale water storage infrastructure, such as dams and reservoirs. 

Ithui stressed the importance of working closely with communities to understand their real needs and tailoring water conservation solutions accordingly. He noted that a one-size-fits-all approach will not be effective in addressing the diverse water challenges facing different parts of Kenya.

As Kenya faces the potential threat of drought, the proactive measures advocated by Ithui serve as a roadmap for communities to secure access to clean water and build resilience against future water challenges.

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