Lake Victoria North Basin Area (LVNBA)

River Nzoia, one of LVSCA major rivers, passing through Budalangi Area (Picture by Mike Thibert)

River Nzoia, one of LVSCA major rivers, passing through Budalangi Area (Picture by Mike Thibert)

Basic Information on Lake Victoria North Basin Area

Location

Lake Victoria North Basin Area (LVNBA) lies within Latitudes South 00º 00’ to North 01º 15’  and from Longitude West 34º to East 35º 30’. Altitude ranges  from 1,134m at Lake Victoria to the peak of Mt. Elgon at 4,321 m above sea level.

The Total Basin Area of LVNBA is 18,374km2, approximately 3.2% of the total area of Kenya.

Topography and land cover

LVNBA has variable topographical characteristics which influence land use activities and water resources management. Due to this spatial variability it has been divided into three major sub-divisions:

  • Upper catchment covers 3 major water towers: called Cherengani Hills, Mt. Elgon and Nandi Escarpment.
  • Middle catchment is mainly covered by undulating hills which are dissected by the rivers Nzoia,Yala, Sio and their tributaries.
  • The Lower catchment covers the flood plains which extend up to Lake Victoria.

Water Resources in the Catchment

There are 6 major rivers in LVNBA namely:

  1. River Nzoia with a drainage area of 12,853 km2 and River Yala with a drainage area of 3,259 km2 which both flow into Lake Victoria,
  2. Sio, Lwakhakha, Malakisi and Malaba rivers flow across the border to Uganda making them Transboundary rivers. The Sio River pours into Lake Victoria along the border with Uganda.  Total drainage area of these four transboundary rivers accounts for 2,301 km2, or 12.5% of LVNBA.

Climate

The climate of the LVNBA is primarily tropical humid characterized by day temperatures varying between 16oC in the highland areas of Cherangani and Mt. Elgon to 28 ºC in the lower semi-arid areas annually. The mean annual night temperatures vary between 4ºC in the highland areas to 16oC in the semi-arid areas. The highest rainfall varies from 1100 to 2700 mm annually. The minimum rainfall varies from 800 to 1400mm annually.

The area experiences four seasons in a year, which is typical of the tropics as influenced by the inter-tropical convergent zone (ITCZ). These are two rainy seasons and two dry seasons. The rainy seasons are in the months of March to May (long rains) and October to November (short rains). The remaining months form the dry seasons. However, that regular weather pattern is modified by the local relief and influence of the Lake Victoria.

Water Demands by Subsector (LVNBA)

Year

Water Demands (MCM/year)

Domestic

Industrial

Irrigation

Livestock

Wildlife

Fisheries

Total

2010

169

6

18

26

0

9

228

2030

424

19

817

61

0

16

1,337

-Source: National Water Master Plain, 2030

Land Use

  • Water towers: Mt. Elgon, Cherengani, Mau Complex forest
  • Wetlands: The major wetland areas are Kingwal, Yala, Sergoit, Saiwa and Sio-Siteko.
  • Agriculture: The main food crops are maize, millet, bananas and cassava while the cash crops consist of sugar cane, tea, wheat, ground nuts, maize and rice. In high potential areas, dairy farming is practiced together with traditional livestock keeping. In low potential areas such as the semi-arid zones, the people mainly practice agro-pastoralism which becomes more nomadic in its style as the aridity increases.
  • Mining majorly consisting of Ikolomani goldmines, quarrying.
  • Commerce and Industry: Major cities and towns in LVNBA are Eldoret, Kakamega, Kitale, Bungoma, Kapenguria, Busia, Siaya, Vihiga and Kapsabet. LVNBA includes the whole area of Busia, Bungoma, and Kakamega counties; the large part of Siaya, Vihiga, Nandi, Uasin Gishu, and Trans-Nzoia counties; and small parts of Elgiyo Marakwet and West Pokot counties. 

In the Basin Area, there are numerous industries such as: sugar factories, coffee factories, jaggaries, milk processing factories, saw mills and flower growing. The local communities provide labour to these industries from which they obtain income to supplement their subsistence activities.

  • Tourism: The main tourism attraction areas include: Kakamega forest, Mt Elgon National Park, Saiwa Game Reserve and the ‘Crying stone’ in Kakamega County.

Major Water Resources Management Challenges

  • Catchment degradation especially in Mt. Elgon, Maragoli, Moiben, Chepkaitit, Timboroa
  • Flooding in areas such as Budalangi, Namanjalala, Malaba, Bumula
  • Loss of vegetation cover: Encroachment and cultivation of wetlands, groundwater recharge areas and riparian zones
  • Destruction of River Gauging Systems by floods and Vandalism of installed hydromet equipment.
  • Climate change and variability which results in high magnitudes of floods and droughts
  • Pollution, mainly from major towns in the form of industrial discharges, agrochemicals, sewage and solid waste disposal.
  • Soil erosion: loss of topsoil, gully erosion, riverbank erosion,
  • Sedimentation of surface water bodies (Lake Victoria, dams, water pans, and rivers)
  • Non Payment of honorarium gauge readers

WRA’s efforts in Curbing Water Conservation Concerns in Lake Victoria North Basin Area

Trans Nzoia County has two major water towers namely; Mt. Elgon and Cherengany Hills and two major rivers namely Nzoia and Suam. Kitale Sub Region manages the Nzoia basin which has the following major tributaries: Koitobos, Ewaso Rongai, Noigameget, Sinyereri, Suwerwa, Losorwa, Chepkaitit, Khybe, Kisawai, Kiptogot and Kaibei.

Water Basin Areas in Kitale face a number of issues ranging from water pollution through solid waste and sedimentation of rivers from soil erosion emanating from poor land use practices.

WRA is undertaking strong sensitization campaigns and capacity building of WRUAs in collaboration with stakeholders regarding waste disposal and proper land use practices.

WRA conducting sensitization campaigns in conjunction with Lufaco-Kabuyefwe

In addition, flooding is another predicament experienced in the area especialy in Sabwani sub catchment, and pockets of flash floods in Asekat and Lumuli sub catchments.

Floods in Sabwani sub catchment destroys crops and farm produce of residents

Chairman Sabwani WRUA, WRA, IUCN and County Department of Environment during a site visit to flooded areas in Amuka, Sabwani.

WRA as an institution is dedicated to managing floods through its recently established flood management department, with flood management officers stationed at every sub region. The flood management officers have already received training in flood management to build their capacity to handle flood related issues on the ground. Efforts are currently underway to secure funding through proposal writing for flood management activities within the sub region.

Improvised Rain-gauge and Water-gauge for Community Based Flood Early Warning System  

Manufacturing session of water and rain gauge           Marked escape routes      

WRA and County Stakeholders during a meeting on flooding issues in Trans Nzoia County.

WRA also undertakes monitoring for both ground and surface water resources. There are two Ground water monitoring stations within Kitale municipality, both of which belong to our stakeholders. One is located at Kenya Seed HQ and the other at Kitale club. Monitoring of ground water is essential as it helps provide critical information those safe guards ground water resources from over exploitation.

WRA uses a permit database (PDB) to monitor all abstractions and authorizations. The PDB system provides data on water use allocation for both surface and ground water abstracted in each sub catchment which is useful for planning of development in the area as well as generating information regarding revenue collection for a given period.

WRA Kitale Sub Region office continues to undertake assessment of water resources monitoring network in order to enhance generation of information required for decision making in water resources development and management. Accordingly, there are seven (7) full meteorological stations within the sub-region. In Trans Nzoia County, the meteorological station is located at Meteorological offices at Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), and through collaboration with Meteorological department, sharing of data and information is enhanced.