Following intensive collaboration to develop a comprehensive Water Allocation Plan (WAP) for the Mara River Basin, Stakeholders involved in this exercise met in Narok to map the way forward on implementation of the WAP. The WAP is a legally bidding document that sets out the rules for managing the use of prescribed water resources to ensure resource sustainability. It ensures an equitable allocation of water, through enabling sustainable socio-economic development, reduce water use conflicts, provide a stable framework for commercial investments and a clear and acceptable basis for adjusting future water allocations; as well as protection of the reserve (water for basic human needs and aquatic ecosystems).

Mara river basin

The Mara River Basin.

In Kenya, water resource issues are regulated by the Water Resources Authority (WRA) which was established under Section 11 of the Water Act, 2016. WRA is an agent to the National Government, responsible for regulating the use and management of water resources.  Development of the Mara WAP was highly participatory by including key stakeholders who enriched development of the Mara Basin’s WAP. They comprised of; County government officials (Bomet and Narok), Government Ministry Officials (Agriculture, Water, Irrigation), National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Water Resource Users Associations (WRUAs), Representatives from the Mara Conservancies and some large abstractors in the basin. The WAP was prepared in consultation with Universities/partners namely IHE Delft and the Regional Water Authority Brabantse Delta, among others, who used their technical expertise in analyzing the data collected.



Stakeholders discussing findings from WAP

According to The Water Resource Authority (WRA), the WAP aims at;

  • Assessing the availability of the resource to cater for the current and future demand.
  • Assessing the water requirements needed to be maintained at different periods for basic human needs and the health of aquatic ecosystems (the reserve).
  • Develop water level thresholds and an alarm system to warn when these thresholds are about to be breached including actions to be taken thereafter.
  • Develop an implementation, enforcement and compliance plan to ensure all stakeholders
  • are aware of actions that can be taken during drought conditions and what they can and
  • must do to help the situation.
  • To provide a platform for getting feedback from stakeholders on the implementation plan, an opportunity for adaptation of the WAP with changing circumstances as well as a learning tool for WAP development in other basins.

From the water balance analysis presented during the workshop, it was clear that future water demand will be much higher (factoring population projections, planned development projects and expansion of irrigation schemes). The available water resource will therefore not be sufficient to meet all these demands unless the water users comply with all the restrictions and permit conditions set by WRA. There was emphasis on the need to store water during floods for use when the water levels are low especially for large scale irrigators. This can also be practiced at a household level.

Water Balance

Water balance along the Mara Basin.

Completion of the Mara WAP indicated the need to disseminate information about the importance of efficient water use across the basin. This can be done through;

  •   Packaging information depending on the target audience (everyone in the Mara Basin including the Tanzanian side).
  •       Disseminate information to both Kenyan and Tanzania stakeholders.
  •      Action stakeholders within the Tanzanian side to share process involved in developing the WAP and support them in developing their WAP.
  •       Develop early warning on water quality , by installing traffic lights on the sub catchments
  •     Regularize illegal works/ abstraction identified during the abstraction survey and installation of measuring devices.

According to Gordon Mumbo; -Team Leader Sustainable Water Partnership (SWP), there were concerns from Tanzania on how the Water Allocation Plan was undertaken. The fear was that Kenya may have allocated most of this resource for the benefit of the Kenyan users. It was however clarified that even though Tanzania has not yet developed its WAP, Kenya is aware of the need to share this resource and has therefore not allocated all the available water to its citizens.  Engineer Boniface Mwaniki, Technical and coordination manager at the Water Resource Authority further added that it is imperative to harmonize implementation of Kenya’s Water Allocation plan for the Mara basin with that of Tanzania once completed. This will make it easier and efficient for the two countries to better utilize this transboundary resource which could otherwise be a source of unwarranted conflict.

 As the workshop wound up , it is evident that better measures need to be undertaken to streamline how water is utilized across all river basins in Kenya going forward. 


Stakeholders involved in development of the MARA River Basin Water allocation Plan.