Egerton University has launched a six-year plan to rehabilitate River Njoro, the main source of Lake Nakuru.
The project in its first year, is one of the university's flagship projects to improve the lives of the neigbouring communities.
The project is estimated to cost Sh136 million and the institution has already allocated it Sh5 million. The 55-kilometre long river is the only permanent source of source of Lake Nakuru because the other three rivers - Makalia, Nderit and Larmudiak - that flow into it are seasonal.
Project coordinator Charles M'erimba said the destruction of the Mau forest and pollution are a threat to the river's survival. Mau forest is the source of the river.
"The community has cleared trees on the river banks for firewood and to access the water," he said.
Speaking during a tour of the project yesterday, M'erimba warned of communal conflict as a result of the diversion of the river upstream for farming. He said this needs to be addressed because the people living downstream are not getting sufficient and clean water.
The river is the main source of water for communities living along its path but according to Dr. M'erimba said the water from the river, the main source of water for local communities, is unfit for human use and consumption as its bacteria levels are 200 e-coli per millimetre, way out of the ideal zero levels.
"This water is not even fit for bathing. The bacteria levels are astounding, but the communities are still using it for drinking and other domestic purposes," he said.
Already, the university has fenced off parts of the river that had been turned into dumping and commercial car wash sites.
The project is being carried in collaboration with the Njoro River Water Resource Users Association, a community initiative that has set up indigenous tree nurseries.
The tree seedlings are freely distributed to farmers and the community for planting on a 30-metre strip on the river banks.
"For more than the 40 years I have lived in Njoro, I have seen the waters in this river dwindle to a trickle," said Nathan Kasavuli, the community initiative chairman.
He, however, adds that the intervention measures are beginning to bear fruit.
M'erimba said despite the financial constraints, the project will ensure the conservation of the Maasai Mau and encourage participation by the local communities.
with an alternative water source in order to give time to the team to completely rehabilitate the river.
"I cannot tell them not to use this water without giving them an alternative, but setting up alternatives is expensive," he says.
For now, the waters at the mouth of the river where it drains into the lake are still polluted. Mounds of plastic bags are found at the base, he says but Egerton university is hopeful that in five years, the waters of River Njoro will sparkle again.