Ngusishi WRUA, A Best Practice Model for WRUAs in Kenya

Ngusishi Water Resource Users Association (NWRUA) was founded in 1998 as a self-help group to solve water-related conflicts among upstream, midstream, and downstream users along the 12km long River Ngusishi in Nanyuki, Laikipia. The goal of the group is to create a system that assures member sustainable access to water. We met Muthuri Mureithi, Chairperson of NWRUA, who took us through the journey of creating one of the most effective WRUAs in Kenya.
When we started the self-help group, we manually rationed water to members. At that time, there were 122 intakes along the river. The upstream members used the river on Monday and Tuesday, the middle stream Wednesday and Thursday, and downstream Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, no one was allowed to use the water, it was left to flow to River Timau”, Mureithi begins.
Although the rationing system worked well during the initial stages in preventing conflicts, it was not sustainable. Following the enactment of the 2002 Water Act, the group registered as WRUA hence allowing them to contribute to the collaborative management of water resources in Ngusishi within a legal framework. Strategizing and Succeeding from Evidence
“We began by conducting a feasibility study. It involved a census to establish the population of people and animals using River Ngusishi, and the amount of water from the river going to domestic, irrigation, and recreation purposes. The results showed that the available water, as used during that time, could not sufficiently meet the demand of the community,” the NWRUA Chairperson adds.
Armed with research data showing the capabilities of the water resources in Ngusishi, NWRUA embarked on a journey of positively changing how water resources are utilized. They reduced the 122 intakes to 3 which served 16 projects among the members. Also, they constructed a self-regulating weir, with help from different stakeholders including large-scale farmers who provided pipes and other fittings for pipeline construction, and members of the community who provided labor. Moreover, they installed master meters and gate valves in each project to help in determining the amount of water received depending on the percentage flow of the river. 70% of the water coming into the self-regulating weir is channeled to the 16 projects while the remaining 30% is left to continue flowing into the river for sustainability.
Self-regulating weir showing piped water to projects and remaining freely flowing to the river
Leaving No-One Behind
Each of the 16 projects have a chairperson. It is the responsibility of each of them to identify the members who are vulnerable. Thus, apart from being prioritized in accessing the water, the vulnerable like People living with disabilities and elderly get water tanks, improved jikos, and seedlings, when available, to help in and gain from in conservation” says Mureithi.
The coordinated and collaborative efforts of NWRUA have enabled it to meet high demand for water against competing needs Consequently, conflicts arising from the use of water resources have significantly reduced. Now members are pleased with the laudable supply of water, and the community engages in regular tree-planting and other conservation activities to protect the catchment areas. Children and women, who previously strained walking long distance to fetch water have time to engage in other productive activities. Furthermore, both large-scale and small-scale farmers enjoy the security of water for prolonged periods.
Small-scale farming at a school in Laikipia, supported by water from the self-regulating weir by NWRUA
To ensure that access to water is sustainable, NWRUA implements other programs including capacity building of members on issues ranging from tree planting, environment-friendly land use, to protection of riparian land. Furthermore, to help in the running of the NWRUA, the organization receives support fees from the members to facilitate the scouts and chairpersons of the 16 projects who regularly collect information from the master meters and report illegal activities along the river. From NWRUA, other WRUAs in the country can learn the importance of collaboration and participation in Water Resource Management (WRM). Because of the efficiency of the WRUA, conflicts related to the use of water resources have dramatically reduced, the community enjoys the convenience and safety of piped-water, large- and small-scale farmers are assured of water, illegal activities along the river have reduced, and members benefit from a common forum for discussing sustainable ways of utilizing water resources in the area.
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