Kenya: Why Ndakaini Dam Remains 'Empty' Despite Rain Everywhere

An image of a half-empty Ndakaini Dam (file photo).

Nairobi — They have wondered - sarcastically- whether Ndakaini Dam was so 'scared' of their rants on social media that all of a sudden, the water levels have started to rise?

Kenyans continue to demand answers over what exactly is ailing a lifeline for the largest city in East Africa and a continental hub, such that even with the heavy rains, the water levels took so long to rise.

The mystery has been unraveled by Capital FM News investigative team, exposing 'top secret' information, detailing how the dam, which supplies more than 80 percent of water to Nairobi County has been run down to its knees.

When this reporter first visited the dam, the water levels were drastically low at 33.8 percent and had only risen from 30 percent, some three days before.

It was on April 24.

On Wednesday, he visited the dam, and things have not really changed, at least on the eye, as open ground usually submerged under the waters still lay bare.

But according to Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company in Ndakaini, the water levels had risen to 40.29 percent by Wednesday morning.

This means that the dam has only gained 6.68 percent for the past one week.

When functional, the dam produces 430,000m3 per day of water that is about 84 percent of a total supply of water to Nairobi residents.

The dam's catchment area measures 75 square Kilometer, which consists of Kimakia and Gatare Natural forest which forms Aberdare Ranges

On a second fact-finding mission, Capital FM News crew decided to move a few steps further, visited a private farm still within Muranga County and even established the existence of what looks like 2 dams upstream in one of the main rivers supplying water at the 70,000,000m3 (70 billion litres) capacity dam at full storage level of 2,041 meters above sea level and a depth average of 65m and eventually got data from the metrological department.

-The fall of Ndakaini dam-

According to a report seen by Capital News, the Ndakaini dam had its lowest water levels in March 2017 at 14.8 million cubic meters.

That equates to 21 percent.

The lowest levels this year was 21.2 cubic meters at 30 percent, on April 10, this year.

It is good to note that the country started receiving heavy rains in March.

But if the current trend continues, the authorities at Ndakaini say they expect the dam will build higher volumes to above 60 percent by mid-July.

-Challenges facing Ndakaini -

The report makes some shocking revelations about what is ailing the dam.

It identifies five specific challenges, which have been attributed to the current crisis, that has been gradual and only worsened in 2018.

As suspected by Kenyans, the report confirms that there have been leakages in the dam, illegal connections and vandalism.

Some gluttonous Kenyans, have made illegal connections while others have diverted the water entering or leaving the dam.

They could have a reason, according to an argument advanced by locals, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"You journalists should investigate what happens between Ndakaini dam and Ng'ethe treating plant... " a local said.

What could be the reason?

"You see, we only host the dam but we have never been beneficiaries of this water. No one really cares about the dam since we have more problems than the residents of Nairobi," another said.

While one may think water is not a sensitive topic, most locals were fear-stricken, and only gave information in bits, withholding the bulk.

The report also highlights the structural design of Ndakaini dam, which hampers high volume storage of water.

"Low-level storage available ... infrastructure development has been left behind due to the structural adjustment programs of the 1990s when donor funds were suspended due to governance matters," the report states.

The Dam construction was undertaken under the Third Nairobi Water Supply Project between 1989 and 1994.

But the reason why no expansion or structural adjustments have not been made, according to the report, they no longer receive donor funds "due to governance matters."

The report does not, however, indicate when funding of the "1990s adjustments programmes" was stopped and the governances issues raised.

The initial project was co-financed by the World Bank, ADB, European Investment Bank and the Kenya Government among others at an estimated total cost of Sh2 Billion.

Another problem why rationing is far from over, the water received in Nairobi according to the report is also supplied, "to the hinterland of Githunguri, Kiambu, Ruaka, Ruiru, Juja, Athi River EPZ etc."

The three rivers supplying water to Ndakaini dam; Githika, Thika and Kayuyu that are fed by tributaries streaming-in from the Aberdare ranges.

But the report cites degradation of the catchment area as another issue coupled with the effects of climate change.

"A lot of rainfall has so far fallen in Nairobi and Southern part of Rift Valley but there have been poor rains in the Aberdare catchment," it reads.

-'Mysterious dams ' upstream Ndakaini-

A satellite image of what seems to be like some two dams, upstream, allegedly "privately owned" in one of the rivers supplying water to Ndakaini dam has caused a stir on social media, with a section of Kenyans making conclusions that it could be the cause of water shortage.

But according to a reliable senior official at the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company, the dams exist but they are not privately owned as alleged.

The official, who did not want to be named "since all the information should come from the headquarters" says "it is a natural cause of a river."

He says, as the river heads to the dam, "it forms pools, more so like the two areas, that comes after a fall."

According to him, some officials have visited the said areas and confirmed, "that the water has not been diverted for future use."

Among other measures, the report recommends "encouragement of rainwater harvesting."

-Rain Water harvesting at Lake Kirubi-

It is a 200,000 cubic meters dam, named after business mogul Dr Chris Kirubi, and it is full capacity.

It is a world apart in terms of its capacity compared to that of Ndakaini, as it is within the same area, where they have been receiving equal amount of rainfall according to metrological reports.

The dam according to David King'ori used to have a capacity of 135,000 cubic meters but has since been expanded, but it is how they collect the water, may leave many puzzled.

The expansive farm, which falls under Bendor Estate Limited, has depressions where rainwater used to flood, rendering tens of acres useless, but not anymore.

"We are getting a lot of water from a section of the land which has been flooding. We have constructed underground tunnels to channel the water to our dam," Kingori said.

Huge terraces that run down to the dam can be seen, and according to King'ori, "the dam has been receiving plenty of water for the last two weeks."

"Dr Kirubi is the man behind this idea. He insisted that we must harvest the rainwater flooding in this land."

And just like many Kenyans, King'ori cannot comprehend why Ndakaini dam, even with three rivers supplying water to it, is not yet full.

-Meteorological Report-

The County Meteorological report handed to NCWSC also calls for rainwater harvesting.

"As noted on climate change aspects, there is need to enhance rainwater harvesting on both roof catchment and surface runoff," the report by Paul Murage, Muranga County Director Meteorological services reads.

According to the report, "the daily reported rainfall amounts on the upper zone including the Aberdares has led to increased percolation and thus less surface runoff to the rivers."

But it points out, even with the challenges raised, the Aberdare catchment has been receiving low rainfall levels between the month of March and May and increase in October-December.

The trend has been recorded between 2015 and 2017.

-About Ndakaini dam -

The dam is operated by the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company.

Water from the dam is usually conveyed through a system of tunnels running from the dam, tapping Kiama River and Kimakia River and diverting the flows to Chania River at the Mwagu Outfall.

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