Water harvesting and storage is the way to go especially during this period of climate change where we have already witnessed erratic weather patterns of suppressed rainfall and in some cases, too much rainfall that causes floods.
We have made tremendous achievements in the development of water infrastructure across the country both at the time when we were still operating under the Water Act 2002 as NWCPC, and now as NWHSA under Water Act 2016.
Going back to NWCPC, the Corporation managed to complete the construction of; Chemususu Dam in Baringo which is meant to serve a population of 600,000 people once all the supply work is complete by the local agency. Kiserian Dam in Kajiado was meant to serve a population of 253,000 people. However, this dam is now silted hence affecting its capacity. We urge the County Government of Kajiado and the local company that is using the water to ensure management of this infrastructure by de-silting it so that it is able to store water to its maximum capacity of 1.2 Million m3. Maruba Dam in Machakos- serving a population 210,000 and Kirandich Dam in Baringo with a storage capacity of 413,000 m3.
Siyoi-Muruny’ Dam in West Pokot is almost complete with a capacity of 8.9 million m3 and will serve a population of 350,000 people.
Soin-Koru Dam has just kicked off although at the preliminary stage. This project will serve Kisumu and Kericho counties with a capacity of 93.7 Million m3, and most importantly, it is meant to curb floods along river Nyando.
We have also constructed medium dams such as Naku’etum (Peace) Dam in Turkana County with a capacity of 600,000m3 serving a population of 20,000 people and 200,000 livestock. We rehabilitated Kalundu Dam which has a capacity of 500,000m3 meant for small-scale irrigation
We have several other large dams under feasibility and design stage such as Bosto, Isiolo, Upper Narok, Londiani, Nyahururu and Rumuruti dams and Igembe North Water supply project.
Small dams, water pans and boreholes
We have constructed over 1,100 small dams and pans across the country especially in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) which have a cumulative storage capacity of approximately 20, million mᶟ. Additionally, we have drilled and equipped approximately 2000 boreholes serving six million people in various parts of the country.
We have managed to construct flood control systems and other water infrastructure that have helped reduce the effects of floods. This year, people living along some sections of rivers Nyando and Awach-Tende were not displaced. Areas protected by dykes have managed to get bumper harvests from their crops and it is our joy and motivation to do more to ensure we cover more ground.
Currently, we are carrying out various flood control projects along major rivers prone to floods where we seek to Improve the drainage capability of various rivers and Impound the flow within the flood plain and river channels. These are: Kuja, Awach Tende/Maugo, Nyando, Nzoia- Budalang’I, Sabwani, Kapkakwa, Perkerra, Kawalase, Goda Merti, Sololo and Olopito El-Masharan check Dam.
The meteorological department has predicted that we shall have long rains between this month of March and May, and for sure it has already started raining in most of the rural areas. What is your message to the public during this period?
In the short-term, we urge the public to take advantage of the rains and harvest rain water at the household level through roof catchment. With the effects of climate change that we have all experienced, we cannot afford to lose water through run off. Rain water harvesting needs a concerted effort for us to make progress starting at the household level. We also urge institutions like schools and hospitals to also harvest rain water for their domestic use.
If we have 1 million households each storing 2000 litres of water, then this translates to 2 billion litres of water. On this note I urge the concerned government agencies to look into ways of lowering the cost of water storage tanks e.g. through tax exceptions or reduction so that the public can afford to buy the tanks.
For the mid-term interventions, we plan, in collaboration with our parent Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation to construct small dams and pans that have a storage capacity that range 10,000m3 to 50,000m3. to store surface run-off during the rainy season for use in the dry season. The Authority constructs on average 15 number such facilities every year and especially on ASAL areas. It also rehabilitates desilted water pans and dams to restore their original capacity.
Additionally, drilling of boreholes is also a viable water harvesting and storage mechanism especially for schools and communities to ensure that potable water is available for their use. Where budget allows, construction of masonry tanks has more storage capacity ranging from 500 to 1000 m3
In the long-term, we need additional large dams since they have bigger storage capacities hence, the solution to drought and floods. We are happy that the current administration led by H.E The President has pledged construction of 100 dams through Public Private Partnerships. This will not only curb drought but also alleviate food insecurity through irrigation. As a key implementing agency, we welcome this move by the government and we are ready to implement and support the government in this noble cause.
Ways Kenyans are employing to make use of domestic water harvesting to mitigate the harsh effects of this drought?
Kenyans are yet to embrace the aspect of domestic water harvesting and those that do, are doing it at a small scale either due to ignorance or limited income to put up the right infrastructure. But there are those with the income and the appropriate roofs ideal for rain water harvesting but are not maximizing on domestic water harvesting. Some homesteads however have the so called djabias where a paved ground or rock section water run-off is directed to an underground water storage. These are large, semi-underground tanks with water catchment systems that feed into them. This is very popular in the Indian ocean islands such as Wasini Island in Kwale County.
Some communities have also dug ponds that are sometimes lined with an impermeable membrane to store run off water. Whichever methods we can each use to harvest rain water is welcome.