Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) is mandated to protect water resources from adverse impacts by integrating land use and human activities into the WRMA Water Quality control programs implemented through:
· Catchment protection, restoration and management
· Identification, documentation and gazettment of fragile water sources, vegetating the catchment areas, soil erosion control activities
· Involvement of communities living in water catchments in pollution control activities ( WRUAs, effluent dischargers, road construction agencies)
· Water pollution control and monitoring ( Enforcement of WRM rules, River clean ups , Solid waste management, Effluent discharge management, Accidental pollution)
A water catchment area is a zone which collects and filters natural water. In addition the water catchment area allows rainwater to seep in which eventually provides base flow to springs, rivers, lakes and groundwater recharge. Wetlands, forested mountains, sand dunes, hills and other areas of adequate vegetation cover are key water infiltration areas facilitating the replenishment of the water tables and preserve the natural qualities of the rain water collected.
Unfortunately, Kenya’s water catchments are continually getting threatened due to increased encroachment into forested, marginal and fragile areas, such as wetlands and sand dunes. Overgrazing, increase of human settlement into areas previously under vegetation cover has greatly contributed to the loss and degradation with a corresponding decline in renewable water resources.
The Shella- Kipunganui catchment zone in Lamu is primarily formed by sand dunes. These dunes act like a sponge capable of storing rain water. The water retained in the sand dunes is the only fresh water source for the Island and the neighboring Manda Island and Shella village. The fresh water availability together with its rich cultural and historical background made Lamu town to be listed as a world heritage site in 2004 thus earning it the status of an international tourist destination. This has brought with it increased challenges further threatening the sand dunes.
Agricultural development around Lakes Kenyatta and Witu, mining of heavy minerals along Gongoni sand dunes, building of palatial houses and extravagant hotels and other facilities for the tourism industry along Shella Sand dunes are threatening their survival. Pressures for more recreation and living areas increase rapidly with the rampant population growth.
The sand dunes are quite vulnerable to disturbances including over abstraction of the groundwater, encroachment by settling on the dunes or farming on it as well as loss of vegetation cover.
Soil erosion caused by lack of vegetation cover
A lamu resident fetching water from one of the shallow wells that have now become saline
The sand dunes which usually replenish fresh ground water by forming a membrane over the underlying ocean water resources have reduced in size causing the mixing of saline water and fresh water. The once fresh water wells around the Lamu town, Shella village and Manda Island are now facing salt water intrusion caused by over abstraction. The locals around Shella village no longer depend on the once fresh water wells; they have been forced to find alternative sources of fresh drinking water as the saline water from the wells are now being used for their livestock and agriculture.
Gedi Ruins. An area abandoned due its lack of fresh ground water reserves
Gazettement of Lamu as a Ground Water Conservation area
The threat to the survival of the fresh water source of Lamu, warranted WRMA to forge an alliance to conserve and protect the sand dunes by signing an MOU with stakeholders to collaborate in the gazettement, conservation and protection of the Lamu water catchment area as they roll out a series of water resource management activities in the Lamu County. A stop order was instituted in September 2008 against any activity within the water catchment area as prescribed in the WRM rules of 2007.
Ongoing construction stopped after orders were given by WRMA
A ground water mapping study commissioned by the National Museums in October 2008 in which WRMA was instrumental in mapping the water catchment area established the size as 1971 Hectares. Based on the study findings, WRMA prepared a map overlay and delineation of the water catchment area in May 2010. The authority established that the total area covered by the sand dunes is approximately 18Km2 extending from Kizingoni, and that the actual water catchment area that needs to be protected was calculated to be approximately 16.5 square kilometers. 117 plots were found to be wholly within this water catchment area of the sand dunes while 35 plots were partially found to be within the catchment area. Having such developments within a water catchment area heavily affects fresh water recharge which eventually leads to reduction of fresh water availability.
The stakeholders engagement process in Amu Island for the Gazettement of the water catchment area is ongoing. To date activities that have been undertaken are:
v Series of consultative meetings with different institutions in Lamu County have been held comprising of: Governor, CEC-Lands, Physical Planning, Infrastructure, Urban Development, Water and Natural Resources, County Commissioner, National Museums of Kenya-Lamu, Lamu Council of Elders, NEMA, Amu WRUA,
v Demarcation of the boundaries of the 16.5 Km2 water catchment area by pegging/beaconing. WRMA, Lamu County, NMK, WRUA and other stakeholders undertook marking and pegging in February and March 2015. The following have been achieved:
o 106 out of the targeted 200 pegs have been successfully done at an interval of between 50 and 100m spacing depending on terrain and thickness of vegetation. The area covered is approximately 10.4 Km from Kizingoni to Sadaka Ali.
v Incorporating the Water Resource Users Associations (WRUA) at the grass root level of its operations.
v Facilitation of the formation of Amu, Lake Kenyatta, Shakababo, Witu, Belebele Chomo WRUAs through mobilization and sensitization of the community in Lamu County. The WRUA capacity has been built and they have developed Sub Catchment Management Plans (SCMP) through funding from WSTF.
v Sensitization of stakeholders and collaboration with the county government. WRMA is also in the process of developing a draft water bill for the Lamu County, which will help facilitate the process of gazetting the catchment area for protection of the sand dunes.
What you can do to conserve and protect your catchment
1. Planting the right species of vegetative cover along catchments areas.
2. Prohibiting land activities on catchments areas which are likely to impact negatively on water resources e.g. constructing buildings along sand dunes, overgrazing, deforestation, planting non-water friendly trees along the water course.
3. Exercising caution when purchasing and developing land along catchment areas; the foundation of such buildings is usually unstable and vulnerable to seeping water from the catchment.
4. Constructing good quality septic tanks and exhausting them regularly to prevent ground water pollution.
5. Joining and/or supporting Water Resources Users Association (WRUA) activities.
WRMA appeals to all to support concerted efforts to protect catchment areas from encroachment restore them to their desired state and ensure that the quality and quantity of water resources is sustained.