Community uses unique method to save rivers


Group has ensured riparian lands have been marked and water friendly trees planted

Wednesday March 18 2020

As the Environment ministry races against time to save the country’s water sources, community associations in parts of Meru County have come up with plans to conserve rivers.

The groups, known as Water Resource Users Associations (WRUAs) have put in place measures that ensure proper usage of water from the rivers to benefit hundreds of thousands of people.

Charged with the responsibility of manning river gauges, the groups also check abstraction of water. Officials of management committees are drawn from areas along the river’s course and the Water Resource Authority (WRA) relies on their advice to issue water intake permits.

Speaking to officials of three groups in Buuri Sub-County that manage Ngusishi, Timau and Tereswani rivers last week, it was evident the solution of rivers drying up lies in water management.

The group has ensured riparian lands have been marked and water friendly trees planted on the course of the river with a ban on eucalyptus which consumes a lot of water. With the onset of short rains, the officials are also encouraging residents to harvest water for use during the dry season.

Ngusishi WRUA chairman Murithi Muthuri says they have installed meters for each project that draws water from any of the three common intakes, with readings taken daily.

“We have employed scouts who patrol the rivers to identify illegal abstractors and ensure that farmers don’t encroach on riparian lands,” said Mr Joel Mwariama, chairman of Tereswani WRUA, adding that the three rivers form the Timau catchment area with a population of over 100,000 people.

Before 2016 when they built the common intakes, there were conflicts resulting from use of the water. “There were 122 intakes on Ngusishi river, with greedy individuals drawing more water than they needed, leaving other people to suffer. Those downstream destroyed all the intakes which resulted in fights,” said Mr Muthuri.

“We had to educate people who own land on the riparian areas and give them seedlings for water friendly trees,” he says.

Timau river WRUA chairman Julius Mbiti said the groups could do more, but they are seriously underfunded and are disregarded by the county and national governments.