Sh40m solution for Laikipia water disputes

Mutara Water River Users Association (WRUA) chairperson Nancy Nyambura shows an illegal water abstraction at Kiamariga and Raya intake along Mutara River. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

Communities living along Mutara River in Laikipia County have resolved to construct a common intake to solve their perennial water wars. 

The water conflicts in Mutara resulted from the unregulated and illegal water abstraction by horticulture farmers.

In a meeting that brought together representatives from Mutara Water River Users Association, Water Resource Authority and other organisations, the stakeholders agreed to have a self-regulating common water intake to ensure equitable distribution among the farmers, pastoralists and wildlife conservancies relying on the river.

“We have been in conflict with people upstream and those living downstream who have no water. The common intake will solve the problem of people drawing water illegally and also regulate the amounts drawn for use,” said Mutara WRUA Chairperson Nancy Nyambura.

According to James Mwangi, a water specialist at Mt Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership, a survey conducted in 2019 found 254 illegal tapping points from River Mutara.

Agriculture is the main activity in the area, with hundreds of large-scale farmers.

River Mutara provides water to more than 30,000 households, livestock and wildlife in Laikipia County. But in the past five years, it has been the centre of conflict between communities living upstream and those living downstream who have no water.

The project, which is jointly implemented by Fauna and Flora International, Ol Pejeta Conservancy and Laikipia Wildlife Forum is expected to offer a long-lasting solution to the water conflicts in Mutara.

Communities agreed to construct a common intake and do away with the six water projects.

According to the WRUA chairperson, desperate herders downstream have been driving their livestock into private farms and ranches in search of water upstream.

Mwangi said construction of the common intake, installation of the distribution pipeline and distribution of water lines will cost Sh40 million.

“Implementation of the project will be done in three phases starting with the construction of the intake and installation of water fittings,” said the water specialist.

The 75-kilometre Mutara River originates from wetlands between Thigio and Subego but vanishes after 18 kilometres due to excessive abstraction pitting users upstream and those downstream.