Welcome to Kenya Rivers Supplement
The Rivers below are the major ones in Kenya many of which have multiple arteries around the 47 Counties sustaining human, animal and plant livelihoods in the country. River Nile is included because some of its waters come from rivers in Kenya which flow into Lake Victoria.
Indeed, Kenya is a member of the Nile basin which includes the main beneficiaries of Nile waters Egypt, Sudan and South Sudan along with supply nations of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zaire and Uganda
This supplement is designed to highlight the importance of rivers in Kenya and raise awareness for the need to protect and conserve rivers in Kenya. World Rivers Day is a celebration of the world’s waterways. It highlights the many values of rivers and strives to increase public awareness and hopefully encourage the improved stewardship of rivers around the world. Rivers in every country face an array of threats, and only our active involvement will ensure their existence in the years ahead for the survival of human, animal and plant live.
Rivers are of critical value in life by facilitating food production through irrigation, transport, power generation, sanitary services among many other essential uses necessary for human survival. A huge number of billions of shillings worth of industries have evolved to provide water and water-related products and services, which call upon humanity to celebrate the World Rivers Day.
Our Rivers are a valuable gift of nature to humanity that like air, should no longer be taken for granted. The phrase that Water is Life, is indeed true because we owe our daily nutrients to water in their production and in many instances, processing for consumption. We must protect water resources, conserve water at all times and always use water carefully.
Five Kenya Rivers of great importance
|River||Length (km)||Length (miles)||Drainage area (km²)||Outflow||Countries in the drainage basin||Kenya Counties, in the drainage basin|
|Nile River||6,650||4,132||3,349,000||Mediterranean Sea||Kenya, Egypt, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, DR Congo, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Sudan||Kisumu County|
|Tana River||1,000||620||35,376||Indian Ocean||Kenya||Garissa County, Tana River County|
|Athi-Galana-Sabaki River||390||242||70,000||Indian Ocean||Kenya||Machakos County|
|Mara River||395||245||13,504||Lake Victoria||Kenya, Tanzania||Narok County|
|Tsavo River||90||56||NA||Athi River||Kenya||Taita-Taveta County|
1. The Nile River
The River Nile in Egypt
|Basin countries||Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Egypt|
|Length||6,695 kilometers (4,180 miles)|
|Source elevation||1,134 meters (3,721 feet)|
|Avg. discharge||2,830 meters³/sec. (99,956 feet³/sec.)|
|Basin area||3,400,000 kilometers² (1,312,740 miles²)|
The Nile is one of the world’s great waterways, at 4,180 miles (6,695 kilometers) generally regarded as the longest river in the world and among the most culturally significant natural formations in human history. Flowing northward from remote sources in the mountains of Ethiopia and central Africa and draining into the Mediterranean Sea, the Nile has flooded seasonally over millennia to provide life-giving fertile soils and irrigation for Egypt’s people. The drainage basin of the Nile encompasses about 10 percent of the area of Africa.
Like the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Mesopotamia in modern Iraq, the Nile provided a hospitable environment for the emergence of one of the earliest and most dominant civilizations in history. The river and its annual inundations played an important role in ancient Egyptian religion and cosmology. Most of the population of Egypt since ancient times and all its cities except those near the coast lie along those parts of the Nile valley north of Aswan, and nearly all the cultural and historical sites of ancient Egypt are found along its banks.
In modern times, the ten nations in the Nile Basin face perhaps their greatest challenge as they confront escalating demands for water, economic opportunities, and hydroelectric power. Pressed by their growing populations and water needs and projected drops in water flow as a result of climate change, all ten Nile basin countries have joined in a 1999 accord “to achieve sustainable socio-economic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resources.”
The ability to transcend national boundaries for the benefit of the greater cause is a necessary step not only in the care and sustenance of the Nile and its peoples, but also in the preservation and stewardship of the earth’s natural resources in the face of unprecedented social and environmental challenges in the twenty-first century.
The Nile and its geography
The word “Nile” comes from the Greek word Neilos, meaning river valley. In the ancient Egyptian language, the Nile is called iteru, meaning “great river,” represented by the hieroglyphs shown on the right.
The Nile has two major tributaries. The Blue Nile is the source of most of the Nile’s water and fertile soil, but the White Nile is the longer of the two. The White Nile rises in the Great Lakes region of central Africa, with the most distant source in southern Rwanda, and flows north from there through Tanzania, Lake Victoria, Uganda, and southern Sudan. The Blue Nile starts at Lake Tana in Ethiopia and flows into Sudan from the southeast. The two rivers meet near the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
Both branches are on the western flanks of the Eastern Rift, the southern part of the Great Rift Valley. Another less important tributary is the Atbara, which flows only while there is rain in Ethiopia and dries quickly. The Nile is unusual in that its last tributary (the Atbara) joins it roughly halfway to the sea. From that point north, the Nile diminishes due to evaporation.North of Cairo, the Nile splits into two branches that empty into the Mediterranean Sea: the Rosetta Branch to the west and the Damietta to the east, forming the Nile Delta.
The river today
The Nile still supports much of the population living along its banks. However, construction of the Aswan High Dam (finished in 1970) to provide hydroelectricity ended the summer floods and their renewal of the fertile soil, since most of the silt carried by the Blue Nile settles in Lake Nasser.
Pressed by their growing populations and water needs, for the first time in history, all ten Nile basin countries (Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda) have expressed a serious concern about the need to work together to fight poverty. Guided by a shared vision adopted in February 1999—”to achieve sustainable socio-economic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resources”—nine countries agreed to launch the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), with Eritrea as observer, and at the same time decided to engage in negotiations for a permanent cooperative framework.
Excess water in Lake Nasser since March 2005 has been pumped by the Mubarak Pumping Station, said to be the largest of its kind in the world, into a canal through the Toshka Valley. Along the whole stretch, agricultural communities will be established wherever possible. The water is projected to irrigate a land of about 2,300 square kilometers that today is only desert. The government hopes to resettle up to three million inhabitants in the area. Experimental farms have shown that the soil is potentially fertile. Crops like cotton, cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelon, bananas, grapes, and wheat have all been successfully cultivated here.
The Nile north of Aswan is a regular tourist route, with cruise ships and traditional wooden sailing boats known as feluccas. In addition, many “floating hotel” cruise boats ply the route between Luxor and Aswan, stopping in at Edfu and Kom Ombo along the way.
Flora and Fauna
In the southern parts of the river, the hippopotamus and Nile crocodile are common. The Nile is also home to a variety of fish and birds, mostly in the southern part. Fish, especially the Nile perch and tilapia, are an important food source.
The upper regions of the Nile are in mountain forests, but as it travels north the vegetation around the river changes to shrubs and short trees, then no plants in the desert. In the river itself, water hyancinth and papyrus flourish. The latter was used for making paper, boats, sandals, and rope in ancient times.
2. Tana River
Tana River is the most important river in Kenya, flowing 440 miles (708 km) from its headwaters in the Aberdare Range and Mount Kenya to the Indian Ocean. Taking a northeasterly course at first, the river plunges over the Kitaru (Seven Forks) Falls (440 feet [134 m]) into a semidesert landscape that constitutes its middle course.
Taking a course of a wide arc, the Tana then veers south and opens into a wide valley, where it meanders through a floodplain subject to inundations. As Kenya’s longest river, it reaches the Indian Ocean at Formosa Bay, Kipini, but a former outlet lies 20 miles (32 km) southwest.
The river is navigable by small craft for about 150 miles (240 km) upstream, often with difficulty. In the upper catchment, Sasumua Dam provides water for Nairobi. Kindaruma, at Seven Forks, is the site of the first major hydroelectric project, and an irrigation project in Mwea, Kirinyaga provides water for rice cultivation.
Below the dam the river turns north and flows along the north-south boundary between the Meru and North Kitui and Bisanadi, Kora and Rabole National Reserves. In the reserves the river turns east, and then south east. It passes through the towns of Garissa, Hola and Garsen before entering the Indian Ocean at Ungwana Bay–Kipini area, at the end of a river delta that reaches roughly 30 km upstream from the river mouth itself.
Annual flow is above 5,000 million cubic meters (MCM) on average, but varies substantially both within and across years, and includes two flood seasons each year. Between 1944 and 1978, average total flow (at Garissa) was 6,105 MCM, varying from only 1,789 MCM in 1949 to 13,342 MCM in 1968. During the 1982-1996 period, annual flow remained above 5,000 MCM as well.
Kenya’s energy sector is the biggest beneficiary or the water resources in Kenya. A series of hydroelectric dams have been constructed along Tana River, including Kindaruma Dam in 1968, Kamburu Dam in 1975, Gitaru Dam in 1978, Masinga Dam in 1981, and Kiambere Dam in 1988. A 2003 study reported that two-thirds of Kenya’s electrical needs are supplied by the series of dams along the Tana River.
KenGen Foundation Clean Water Projects
Every year, preventable waterborne illnesses claim the lives of millions of Kenyans. Through partnerships with corporates, civil society, non-governmental organizations and County governments, KenGen has contributed towards addressing Kenya’s water challenges.
Provision of clean accessible water for communities neighbouring its power plants has been one of KenGen’s key Corporate Social Investment programs since 2005.
Some of its notable water projects include:
- Sondu Miriu Water project: This project includes a water treatment plant, bore holes and water kiosks, catering for 50,000 community members. A total investment worth Ksh 147 Million.
- Kivaa-Kaewa Water project: This includes a water distribution system (piping), water tanks and water kiosks serving 15,000 community members. An investment of Ksh 50 Million.
These projects have been identified, implemented and managed in collaboration with Sondu Miriu, Kivaa and Kaewa communities.
Key project partners include: Lake Victoria South Water Service Board and Tanathi Water Services Board.
All this has been achieved through community involvement and the support and participation of various regional Water Service Boards that oversee the delivery of water supply to communities in a sustainable and professional way. Key partners for the above mentioned projects include Lake Victoria South Water and Sanitation Board as well as Tana Athi Water and Sewerage Board. KenGen has therefore made a mark as a good corporate citizen by contributing to help Kenya meet the UN Millennium Development Goal on water and sanitation.
Visit our Foundation website: www.kengenfoundation.co.ke/
3. Athi-Galana-Sabaki River
Athi-Galana-Sabaki River is the second longest river in Kenya (after the Tana River). It has a total length of 390 km, and drains a basin area of 70,000 km². The river rises at 1° 42′ S. as Athi River and enters the Indian Ocean as Galana River (also known as Sabaki River).
Athi River flows across the Kapote and Athi plains, through the Athi River town, takes a northeast direction where it is met by the Nairobi River. Near Thika it forms the Fourteen Falls and turns south-south-east under the wooded slopes of the Yatta ridge, which shuts in its basin on the east.
Apart from the numerous small feeders of the upper river, almost the only tributary is the Tsavo River, from the east side of Kilimanjaro, which enters in about 3° S. It turns east, and in its lower course, known as the Sabaki (or Galana), traverses the sterile quartz-land of the outer plateau.
The valley is in parts low and flat, covered with forest and scrub, and containing small lakes and backwaters connected with the river in the rains. At this season the stream, which rises as much as 10 m in places, is deep and strong and of a turbid yellow colour; but navigation is interrupted by the Lugard falls, which is actually a series of rapids. Onwards it flows east and enters the Indian Ocean in 30 12′ S., just 10km north of Malindi town.
The river flows through the Tsavo East National Park and attracts diverse wildlife, including hippopotamus and crocodiles. Famously, in the 2009 case of Ben Nyaumbe, the region is also home to pythons.
4. Mara River
|The Mara River in Kenya|
|Region||Narok County and Mara Region|
|Length||395 km (245 mi)|
|Basin||13,504 km2 (5,214 sq mi)|
Bridges on the border of Kenya and Tanzania
Hippo with calf, Mara River, Kenya
The River’s Flow
The Mara River basin covers a surface of 13,504 km2, of which approximately 65% is located in Kenya and 35% in Tanzania. From its sources in the Kenyan highlands, the river flows for about 395 km and originates from the Mau Escarpment and drains into Lake Victoria. The basin can be roughly divided into four land use and/or administrative units.
The Mara’s Regions
The Mau Escarpment: The Mara River originates from the Napuiyapi swamp (2932 m), with the main perennial tributaries being the Amala and the Nyangores, which drain from the western Mau Escarpment. This part of the basin supports besides forests, both small-scale agriculture (less than 10 acres) and medium-size farms (often tea farms up to 40 acres).
The Kenyan Rangelands:
In this area, the Amala and Nyangores rivers flow out of the Mau Escarpment and converge to form the Mara River. The river then meanders further through open savannah grasslands that is mostly governed by Maasai group ranches and used as pasture for livestock and for both small — and large-scale agriculture (more than 40 acres). The basins of four important tributaries to the Mara (the Talek, Engare, Sand and Engito rivers) are also located in this area, together with some upland areas like the Loita Hills.
Mara Protected areas:
Eventually the Mara river flows into the world-famous Masai Mara National Reserve, where it merges with three of four tributaries. On the Kenyan-Tanzanian border, the river flows into the Serengeti National Park and is joined by the fourth major tributary: the Sand (or Longaianiet) River. In these wildlife parks human activity is restricted to wildlife viewing.
Downstream in Mara Region Tanzania: Just after the Mara River flows out of Ikorongo Game Reserve (which borders Serengeti National Park) it meanders sharply northwards. At the location where the river meanders into the southwestern direction again the main channel is lost in different streams, which feed the downstream Mara wetlands. These streams and wetlands continue for about 70 kilometres downstream.
In this part of the basin human and livestock densities are high and small-scale subsistence agriculture is the main land use. The Mara River basin is one of the ten drainage basins that feed into Lake Victoria, and is therefore functionally and ecologically related to the socio-economic activities in Lake Victoria and along the River Nile.
Mara River hosts world famous spectacle dubbed the 8th World Wonder of thousands of wildebeests precariously crossing the river in centuries old annual migration between Kenya and Tanzania.
Altitudes and Ranges
The altitudes in the basin range from 2,932 m around the sources in the Mau Escarpment to 1,134 m around Lake Victoria. The amount of precipitation varies according to these altitudes. The Mau Escarpment receives most rainfall with a mean annual rainfall between 1,000 and 1,750 mm. The transboundary middle savannah grasslands receive an average between 900 and 1,000 mm, and the Kenyan lower Loita hills and the area around Lake Victoria only about 700 and 850 mm rain per year.
On top of this rainfall variability in space, the region is also known for its rainfall variability in time, which means that the different areas all receive variable amounts of rainfall over the year. The rainfall seasons are bi-modal, with the long rains starting in mid-March to June with a peak in April, while the short rains occur between September and December.
Mara river in Narok County
The Mara’s Effects
The river is a vital source to grazing animals nearby. Although during the dry season it may often appear shallow, it may swell to up to twice its normal size after heavy rainfall. This can create rapids in the river, which may lead to shortage of food for predators that cannot cross the river to hunt.
Between the 1950s and 2006, the seasonal water quantities in the Mara have changed significantly in the sense that there are now higher peaks and lows in the river flow. These dynamics are associated with changes in land use in the catchments area: decreasing vegetation covers are causing a faster run-off of rainwater.
Near the river mouth in Tanzania, the rapidly fluctuating water levels in Lake Victoria of the previous century have further added to discharge difficulties of the Mara River. Consequently, floods have become more common and large parts of the Tanzanian Mara wetlands have become more permanent instead of temporary wetlands.
5. Tsavo River
Tsavo River runs east from the western end of the Tsavo West National Park of Kenya, near the border of Tanzania, until it joins with the Athi River, forming the Galana River near the center of the park. This river is the main contributor to the watershed of the lower portion of the park region, and is home to abundant fish. The Tsavo River is the site of the 1898 Tsavo Maneaters incident.
View of the Tsavo River in Tsavo West National Park
Tsavo is best known for the Maneaters lions during the construction of Kenya-Uganda Railway by British colonialists. The descendants of the Tsavo Man-Eaters lions have emerged from the African Bush to strike terror in workers replacing the Kenya-Uganda Railway.
In 1898, the notorious Tsavo Man-Eaters – a pair of lions with a taste for human flesh – killed dozens of Indian workers who built the British Kenya-Uganda Railway, before they were shot by a British colonial officer.
Now their descendants in Kenya are attacking workers laying the multi-billion-shilling Wide Gauge Railway replacement of the British rail line by the Chinese.
According to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), a ranger was attacked and badly injured by a lion earlier this week, whilst he was guarding an area near the construction of the new railway line. The area was to be visited by the Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta.
Earlier this year, KWS had urged workers building the new standard gauge railway to take extra care in the evening, so as to avoid being prey for Tsavo’s lions.
KWS assistant director Robert Obrein was reported to have told workers in the area: “(The Company’s) camp is in the area where the notorious man-eating lions that were responsible for the deaths of a number of workers who built the Kenya-Uganda railway in 1898 roamed. It is also near Tsavo River where other big cats such as cheetahs and leopards come to drink water.”
Away form the lions, Tsavo River is an important economic contributor to the Coast Province.
Water Services Providers
Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company is an ISO 9001 certified institution that is purely tasked with providing water and sewerage services to the residents of Nairobi. The Company aspires to be a role model among other water companies established across Africa. In addition to the primary services offered, the company is also engaged in Corporate Social Responsibility activities that are aimed at improving the lives of the underprivileged.
These CSR activities are carried out in conjunction with international partners such as the United Nations, International Water Association and The World Bank. The Company’s efforts have been recognised by numerous local and international bodies that have awarded the company for its various achievements.
To be a world class provider of water and sewerage services.
Provide reliable quality water and sewerage services in an environmentally friendly manner that delights customers within Nairobi City County.
- Customer Focus
- Creativity and innovation
- Team work
Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC) was incorporated in December 2003 under the Companies Act cap 486. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Nairobi City County.
It has its headquarters in Kenya, Nairobi City Kampala Road, Industrial Area and has its area of jurisdiction divided into six administrative regions, namely, Northern, Eastern, North Eastern, Central, Southern and Western regions which are further devolved into 25 zones.
The mandate of the Company is to provide clean water and sewerage services to the residents of Nairobi County, in a financially sustainable manner and within the Government regulations. The City has an estimated population of 3.8million and projected to grow to 4.5 million by 2019. The 2002 Water Act brought about reforms in the Water Sector that were aimed at facilitating access to clean water and sewerage services to all Kenyans. The reforms saw the creation of regional Water Boards which were tasked with the responsibility of overseeing the operations of water and sewerage/sanitation utilities in their respective areas of jurisdiction, besides major asset development.
Within this structure, NCWSC was under Athi Water Services Board (AWSB). The Water Act 2002 is under review with the draft Bill providing for establishment of Water Works Development Boards in place of the Water Service Boards. To enhance the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company’s efficiency, the senior management team of the Company has been recruited competitively from the job market.
Both Directors and senior management staff are bound by code of ethics that assures suppliers of due diligence in keeping with the Company’s goal of strengthening its corporate governance. Since the Company is run on commercial principles, staff and management are integrated into a competitive and productive environment that is customer-focused and results-oriented. The Company is also ISO 9001 certified to ensure the consumers on the quality management systems adopted within the Company.
Currently, of the three million residents of Nairobi, only 50 per cent have direct access to piped water. The rest obtain water from kiosks, vendors and illegal connections. Of the existing customers, about 40 per cent receive water on the 24-hour basis.
The Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company is committed to ensuring that all stakeholders receive water regularly and efficiently and that the water reaching the customers is of highest quality. The Company aspires to be a role model among other water companies established across the Africa.
Visit us: www.afwacongress2016.org/index.php/en/about-event/ncwsc
TANATHI Water Services Board
TANATHI Water Services Board (TAWSB or TANATHI) was created on June 4, 2008 through a Legal Notice No.69 contained in the, Kenya Gazette Supplement No.25. It was hived off from Tana and Athi Water Services Boards, to become the eighth Water Services Board, responsible for the efficient and economical provision of water in thirty eight districts, covering Kitui, Machakos, Makueni and Kajiado counties.
Upon its establishment, TANATHI developed a strategic plan in 2008 to guide its operations for the period running between 2008 and2013. However, the plan was developed shortly after TANATHI was formed and did not therefore address all the strategic issues in the water and sanitation sector as stipulated by the 2002 reforms.
Besides this, a number of policy changes at the national level have been accomplished since the current Strategic plan was developed. These include the development of Kenya Vision 2030, which accords the water and sanitation sector a critical role in achieving development targets under the social pillar; the National Medium Term Plan, 2008-2012. Two, the new Kenyan constitution makes access to basic needs, including access to safe clean water and sanitation, a fundamental right. The current Strategic Plan being reviewed was also based on the 1999 population census figures which have become rather outdated and can therefore not be used in planning. With the availability of the 2009 Kenya Household and Population Census, it is important that the strategic plan be revised to be in line with national policy changes and base its strategic orientations on current population figures and trends.
The revision has also been informed by the need to have TAWSB’s operations comply with the various reforms introduced by the 2002 Water Act. With the passing of the Water Act and consequent water sector reforms, the Government committed itself to adopting a human rights based approach in the water sector.
Although the right to water and sanitation is not explicitly provided in the Water Act, it was formally recognised in a number of key policies developed as part of the water sector reforms. This has also been reinforced in the current Constitution. The separation of policy and regulatory responsibilities and the devolution of responsibilities for water resources management and water services provision to local level functions has been the principal mechanism for improving accountability and transparency in the water and sanitation sector.
Visit us on – http://www.tanathi.go.ke/