The Mara River Basin spans approximately 13,750 km2, 65 percent of this area is located in Kenya and 35 per cent in Tanzania. The role of the Mara River as a key water resource for the communities and ecosystem can only be emphasized. It further serves Maasai Mara Game reserve and the Serengeti National parks, which are considered significant for regional conservation and pillars of economic development from a local, regional to a national level perspective.
Following support from the Mau Mara Serengeti Sustainable Water Initiative ( MaMaSe) , the Water Resource Authority (WRA) which is mandated to effectively regulate and manage water resources for sustainable development, with the support of IHE Delft institute for water education undertook comprehensive data collection on the status of the Mara River. The data was collected across five Sub catchments of the Mara River where the abstraction survey was undertaken i.e. Talek, Lemek, Sand River, Mara, Nyangores & Amala and aimed at determining supply, demand and the water balance for current consumption and future consumption projections.
Stakeholders met in Narok to analyze and review findings from this exercise to map the way forward on implementing the comprehensive Water Allocation Plan for the Mara River within the Kenyan territory . The workshop included presentations on the water resource assessment, reserve assessment and demand assessment , water balance (current and future projections) , presentation on scenarios of availability and demand changes, an Interactive discussion on implementation and monitoring changes.
According Eng. Boniface Mwaniki; Technical Director WRA, prior to intervention by MaMaSe and water experts within the project from IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, there was very limited information on the status of the Mara River Basin with reference to permitted abstractors, illegal abstractors, location of abstractors , how much water they are abstracting and how they are abstracting from the main tributaries feeding into The Mara River . These assumptions would lead to flawed information on the actual water available in comparison to data from rainfall collection. The statistics would indicate that there is plenty of rainfall available, but on cross-checking with the actual water levels in the rivers, most had dropped water levels or even drying river beds in comparison to the rainfall data. On the other hand, David K Bosuben, Acting Deputy Director- Transboundary Water Resources, noted that previously, there was no scientific approach to water allocation, the authority operated without knowledge on whether they were over or under allocating water. He further noted that one of the outstanding features of the newly developed WAP under MaMaSe of the Mara River Basin is that WAP has gone further and considered the downstream users who also have a right to this resource, making it now possible to maintain a recommended reserve flow. This inclusion is critical in managing conflict resulting from use of trans-boundary resources.
Members from the Mara River Water Resource Users' Associations (WRUAs') represented during the workshop noted that it has been challenging to gauge how much water to abstract and when to abstract due to the erratic water flows. Cliff Neylan, Lalela farm pointed out that regulated monitoring of the river will enable better water consumption and projections which may guarantee a more sustainable future. He further added that water users need to adopt water storage technologies instead of having to rely on rivers all the time. According to Eric Olereson, Regional Coordinator - Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association (MMWCA) there has been concerns by the tourist facilities on the dwindling water levels which have also affected wildlife, especially the species which are water dependent. On ecological demands – wildlife should be factored in. WRA should confirm if Water allocation guidelines considered wildlife water demand separately or if it should be included in the reserve flow . All stakeholders were in agreement that the WAP document and implementation of the contents thereof will bring about a sense of security, that the monitoring system is better and everyone should join efforts to implement it carefully. Stakeholders should also be held responsible for their actions. This will guarantee that the river shall always be there for generations to come.
According to Douben Klaas-Jan; Sr. Advisor Water expert at The Brabantse Regional Water Authority-Netherlands, developing a water allocation plan may look simple, but implementing it, is the challenging part. Agreeing on organizations responsible on who does what, how and prioritizing the action points is important. For impact to be realized it takes time and all stakeholders must be willing to put in the time and effort to work together for the long haul.