WORKING MEETING FOR THE WATER ALLOCATION PLAN ALONG THE MARA RIVER BASIN
Formulation of effective and sustainable water resource allocation plans is a key responsibility by governments for better management of the resource. In Kenya, Water Resource Management Authority (WRMA) has the mandate to protect aquatic water systems to effectively regulate and manage water resources for sustainable development. WRMA operates within the six water catchment areas in Kenya namely; Athi, Ewaso Nyiro, Lake Victoria North, Lake Victoria South, Rift valley and Tana catchment areas.
The Lake Victoria South Catchment Area (LVSCA) is responsible for the Mara River Basin under which the Mau Mara Serengeti Sustainable Water Initiative, MaMaSe, is heavily involved, to improve water safety and security in the Mara River Basin, all aimed at contributing to structural poverty reduction, sustainable economic growth, conservation of the basin’s ecosystems, and self-reliance of its people and institutions. To do so, MaMaSe recognises that development of a sound water resource management strategy and strengthening capacity of water resource management institutions is key for sustainable development, hence the need to work with WRMA, county governments of Narok and Bomet among other stakeholders, on different interventions along the basin. To further review these assessments which include; water resource assessment, reserve assessment, and water use and demand assessment, a technical team met in Kericho, to discuss and evaluate the first results on how effective, the water monitoring mechanisms applied in the field are helping WRMA to better execute its mandate.
Stakeholders during the Water Allocation Plan technical working meeting in Kericho.
According to Stanley Naingisa- County Officer, Water and Irrigation, Narok County; illegal water abstraction has been a key concern in the county, due to a growing need by users along the upper and middle basin. On the other hand Eng. Boniface Mwaniki- WRMA Deputy Technical Manager noted that; increased population, change of land use from livestock to tilled land, increased tourism and effects of climate change have brought about reduced water quantity in rivers serving the Mara river basin. To address these concerns, there is a need for better ways of predicting water flows in these rivers, which will better inform how water is allocated in the basin.
With the help of UNESCO- IHE which is the lead partner of the MaMaSe programme, the Mara basin has been mapped using the free of charge Water Evaluation and Planning software (WEAP). According to Dr Jochen Wenninger, Hydrologist- UNESCO-IHE; WEAP software provides a flexible and user-friendly platform for scientific water allocation planning. WEAP also acts as a monitoring tool for water balance based on supply versus demand. The software can also be used to map water runoffs, stream flows, storage, treatment discharge and also map out competing uses of water along the basin, be it water for irrigation, abstraction among other uses.
Simulation of Mara River basin's, Stream flow, Water demand and unmet water demand.
David Mutai - Regional Manager (Kisusmu); WRMA noted that the partnership with MaMaSe has been beneficial to WRMA. He pointed out that through MaMaSe, they have been able to refurbish water monitoring networks to enable them to increase the flow of high quality and reliable data, analyze the data through software such as WEAP and to better communicate results of such data to users across the river basin, while remaining mindful of the users beyond Kenyan borders like Tanzania, since the Mara River is a trans-boundary resource. These sentiments were also echoed by Prof. Michael McClain: Project Lead- MaMaSe.
As the curtains closed on the Water Allocation Planning technical meeting, a detailed plan was laid out, to put together a functional water allocation plan document, where the first draft shall be ready by the end of the first quarter of 2017. On completion, this will be used as a reference guide for implementing the Water Allocation Plan for the Mara River Basin. Participants were also in agreement that there is a need for all stakeholders in this sector to closely collaborate in a bid to manage water users expectations while balancing supply in the wake of climate change.