The Arberdare Range has a maximum elevation of 3,999 metres above sea level and is heavily forested. The Aberdares are the water catchment area for the Sasumua and Ndakaini dams, which provide most of the water for Nairobi. The mountain forests are catchment areas for the Tana River, the largest river in Kenya, supplying water to the Seven Forks hydroelectric power complex which generates over 55 percent of Kenya’s total electricity output.
The major rivers from Aberdare Forest are Athi and Tana, which flow into the India Ocean, Ewaso Nyiro that drains into the Lorian Swamp and River Malewa that drains into Lake Naivasha. The Athi, Lake Naivasha, Tana and Ewaso Nyiro river basins have their source in Aberdare Forest Reserve. The area around the forest reserve has very high agricultural potential due to the fertile soils and reliable rainfall. Farming is thus the main stay of the economy of the forest adjacent communities around the ecosystem. Other land uses include, livestock, wildlife, tourism, forestry, fishing, urbanization, settlements.
There are however various threats to the conservation of the water tower that have been identified which include: Illegal logging, over-grazing livestock and wildlife grazing, poaching of wildlife, illegal water abstraction and over abstraction, destruction of riparian areas, marijuana and tobacco cultivation, excisions and encroachment of forest area, lack of adequate information on the water towers, lack of clear boundaries of the forests, inadequate documentation of the natural resources contained in it and its potential for economic and livelihood purposes. There is also eminent threat by climate change and global warming, which may alter the species composition of these areas.
As a vitally important water tower providing ecosystem services to millions of people and businesses in Kenya, Mount Kenya can be viewed as the heart and lungs of the country. People’s livelihoods, the Kenyan economy, rich biodiversity and endangered species are all threatened by the pressures on Mount Kenya’s diverse and biologically rich ecosystems. Mount Kenya has given its name to the country in which it stands. Rising on the equator to a height of 5,199 m, it is Africa’s second-highest mountain, after Kilimanjaro in the neighboring United Republic of Tanzania. It was formed some 3 million years ago by volcanic activity and is a circular mountain with a base diameter of 60 km.
Rivers which start on Mount Kenya are the tributaries of two large Kenyan rivers: the Tana and the Ewaso Ng'iro rivers. A lot of Mount Kenyan rivers flow into the Sagana which itself is a tributary of the Tana, which it joins at the Masinga Reservoir. The rivers in the northern part of the mountain, such as the Burguret, Naru Moru, Nanyuki, Liki, Sirimon flow into the Ewaso Ng'iro. The rivers to the south-west, such as the Keringa and Nairobi flow into the Sagana and then into the Tana. The remaining rivers to the south and east, such as the Mutonga, Nithi, Thuchi and Nyamindi, flow directly into the Tana.
Mau Forest Complex (MFC) is the most important water tower in Kenya that supports millions of livelihoods nationally, regionally as well as internationally. The Water tower is a major catchment for 12 major rivers namely Sondu, Mara, Nyando, Yala, Ewaso- Ng’iro, Molo, Njoro, Nderit, Makalia, Naishi, Mumberes and Nzoia Tributaries. The rivers feed major lakes in the country that including Turkana, Baringo, Nakuru, Natron, Victoria.
The MFC comprises of 22 forest blocks, stretching across 5 Counties namely; Narok, Bomet, Kericho, Nakuru and Uasin Gishu. The Mara-Serengeti ecosystem for instance is a major trans-boundary tourist attraction ecosystem that supports millions of livelihoods as well as a globally recognized heritage site under the UNESCO world Heritage site classification. The catchment and ecosystem is an important support system for tourism, agriculture, pastoralism, biodiversity and hydro-electric generation.
Mt. Elgon water tower is among the five major water towers in Kenya and a key water catchment for the Rift valley drainage system. The water tower lies between Kenya and Uganda and is named after the Elgeyo tribe, who once lived in huge caves on the southern side of the mountain. The water tower covers 72,874 ha part of which is gazetted as a National Park, and another part as a Forest Reserve. The Kenyan side of the water tower falls within Bungoma and Trans-Nzoia Counties.
The climate varies from moist to moderate dry with an average annual rainfall is 1,270 mm with early rains occurring between March-June-August and latter rains August-October. The water tower is a catchment area for the drainage systems of Lakes Victoria and Turkana in Kenya and Kyoga in Uganda. It supports a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna and is a habitat to 37 globally threatened faunal species.
The key threats facing Mt. Elgon water tower are uncontrolled exploitation of endangered tree species; and limited awareness on importance of conservation and protection of the water tower.
Cherangani Hills water tower is one of Kenya’s ‘big five’ water catchments. It covers an area of 120,841ha with 67% in Elgeyo-Marakwet, 31% in West Pokot and the rest in Tranz-Nzoia all being counties found in the Rift Valley region. A 5km buffer zone around the forest has244,404 ha adding up to 365,245 hafor the water tower. The tower consists of 12 protectedforest blocks that include Kapolet Block in Trans- Nzoia County, Kapkanyar and Lelan blocks in West Pokot County and Cheboyit, Chemurkoi, Embobut, Kaisungor, Kerrer, Kipkunur, Kiptaberr, Sogoio and Toropket in Elgoyo Marakwet.
The Cherangani Hills water tower is an important watershed area between Lake Victoria and Lake Turkana basins. The water tower hosts critical headwaters for Nzoia, Turkwel (also known as Suam) and Kerio rivers. These rivers are important as Nzoia drains to the trans-boundary Lake Victoria which is the source of River Nile while Turkwel and Kerio drain into Lake Turkana. Additionally, the Turkwel River is a source of water for the Turkwel dam that is used ingeneration of hydro-electric power. The streams tothe West of the watershed feed the Nzoia river system while those to the East feed Kerio river system, those to the North feed Turkwel river system.
Marmanet Water Tower is located on the eastern escapment of the Rift valley, North of Nyahururu. It comprises of five forests reserves; Lariak, Marmanet, Ol Arabel, Rumuruti and Uaso Narok. Marmanet Water Tower is one of the water towers that serve the rift valley drainage system. The Marmanet forests are catchments for four rivers; Ewaso Nyiro north, Mukutan, Ol Arabel and Sandai. Rivers flowing from the forest provide water to major conservation areas including Lake Baringo, Lake Bogoria National Reserve, Buffalo Springs national reserve, Shaba National Reserve and also drain into Lorian Swamp in Wajir County.
Rivers like Ewaso Nyiro north from the catchments also provide water to urban areas including Archer’s Post, Ol Donyo and Kipsing Trading centres, including tourist facilities in the protected areas. The Marmanet and Ol Arabel forest reserves form the main upper catchment of Sandai River that drains into Lake Bogoria.
Nyambene National Reserve is a 265 Km2 conservancy named after the famous Nyambene Hills. The reserve was originally gazetted as a 640 Km2 conservation area under a Kenya legal notice 86.
The circular crater rises 73 M above the surrounding area. It has an average diameter of 800 M and an average crater depth below the rim of 140 M. The rim itself is between 80M to 100M thick. A small lake on the floor of Igombe crater evaporates to forma soda salt crust where the Meru people have been collecting salt for centuries.
Other attractions at the reserve include the Gerenuk antelope, the reticulated giraffe and Grevy’s zebra. Nyambene National Reserve has a healthy population of leopards, cheetahs and lions. The conservancy is also a bird watcher’s paradise hosting hundreds of species of birds. A 10 to 15 feet gulley which has formed provides the only entrance to the crater.The birds nesting place or Gachiuru as its locally called, is a bird watchers paradise in Nyambene conservancy. Populated with over 10,000 nests artistically hanging in acacia trees the birds are active during the morning hours and in the evenings. Birds to be found here include the great horned owl, doves, and the greater sage grouse amongst many others.
The Chyulu Hills water tower features a vast montane forest – savanna grassland ecosystem found in eastern Kenya. The Chyulu Hills rise to an altitude of 2,188m high and 150km, and are situated between the famous Amboseli and Tsavo Ecosystems. The eastern flank of the hills, including about half the forested area, is in the 47,100 ha Chyulu East National Park, while the western half is part of the ungazetted West Chyulu Game Conservation Area, owned by several Maasai group ranches
Though the area has no surface rivers, it serves as the water catchment area for the surrounding plains up to 50kms away. The Chyulu range is composed of volcanic lava rock and ash, which is too porous to allow rivers to flow. Because of this, rain water trapped from moisture-laden breezes percolates into underground reservoirs which supply the likes of Mzima Springs, a series of four natural springs that serve the popular Tsavo West National Park as well as Umani Springs a key source of water that enables the flourishing of the magnificent Kibwezi forest.
This water Tower is located in Samburu County. It is also known as Lenkiyio hills in the Local language. The range is about 150 km long, oriented north-south. The highest point is Warges, at 2688 m above sea level; a peak located the southern end of the range, separated by a valley from the rest of the range. The 1,809 metres high Ldoinyo Lenkiyo. 1,860 m high Mathews Peak, 1,491 m high Ilpisyon 1,184 m high Lolgek 1,472 m high Lomolok 1,861 m high Tipito and 1,289m high Ilmara Muroi are located in the middle of the range. There is also a breast-shaped hill locally known as Sweet Sixteen. Others are: Oldoinyo Sabachi 1,963m, Lekat 1,625m, and Namanyaraboo 1,216m
Mt. Kipipiri is located on the north western side of the Aberdares. It is detached from the main Aberdare range and sits in between Geta-bushi and Miharati areas. The Mt stands at an elevation of 3348 m above sea level. Mount Kipipiri is an isolated Volcano in the Wanjohi Valley, on the Kinangop Plateau near to the Aberdare Range. It is about 20 miles (32 km) northeast of Lake Naivasha, which is visible from the summit. Wildlife includes Colobus and Sykes monkeys, elephants and buffalo and abundant birdlife.
Loita hills forest (Naimina Enkiyio Forest) is one of the water towers found in the Rift Valley south drainage system. It is located in Narok County in southern Kenya and is a dry season grazing ground for the pastoralist communities living adjacent to it. While the plains to the south and west of the hill forest are communally owned, the forest is legal trustland under the care of the Narok County Council.
Loita hills, is a significant water catchment area in the dry lands of Southern Kenya and borders the Mara game reserve. The water tower supports the livelihood of the pastoralist communities who consider this as a dry season grazing area. It is also a significant water source for the variety of wildlife found here and in the adjacent game reserves and national parks.
Huri Hills are found in North-Eastern Kenya specifically Marsabit county. They are located towards the North of the Chalbi desert towards the Ethiopian border with the highest peak reaching a 4000m altitude level. The numerous hilly landscape spans an area of 30 miles and is covered with grass during rainy seasons. A warm savannah climate prevails in the area. The area has an average annual temperature of 25° C. with an average annual rainfall of 280 millimeters.
The hills experience heavy mists and strong cold winds through-out the year and nomadic communities have been known to skim the grasslands with vessels to collect water from dew that settles for their immediate needs.
Ndotto’s forest is one of the water towers found in the Ewaso North catchment area. The hill forest is a dry season grazing ground for the pastoralist communities living adjacent to it.
Ndottos Ranges are located between latitudes 1.5800 and1.9600 N and longitudes 31.3400 and 37.0000 E in the north-eastern region of Samburu County. Ndottos Forest Reserve covers an area of approximately 97,165ha (GOK, 2001) which is about 30% of the forest cover in the entire county. The forest reserve is dominated by indigenous trees which make the forest highly productive economically.
Kibirong Swamp- Nandi
Kingwal Swamp- Nandi
Loima Hills – Turkana
Karasuk Hills – Turkana
Chebuko/Kamalogon- West Pokot
Kamelei & Chesuko Hills- West Pokot
Imenti hills – Meru
Ngaya Hills – Meru
Kirimiri Hills – Embu
Kiang’ombe Hills – Embu
Mkogodo Hills – Laikipia
Karima Hills- Nyeri
Tumutumu Hills- Nyeri
Kiamucheru Hills- Nyeri
Nyana Hills- Nyeri
Nyeri Hills- Nyeri
Kikuyu Escarpment- Kiambu
Kerugoya Hills- Kirinyaga
Kiera Hills- Tharaka Nithi
Taita Hills- Taita Taveta
Kasigau Hills- Taita Taveta
Maungu Hills- Taita Taveta
Mwang’ea Hills- Kilifi
Lake Kenyatta- Lamu
Machakos Hills- Machakos
Kibauni Hills- Machakos
Kanzalu Hills- Machakos
Matetani Hills- Machakos
Iveti Hills- Machakos
Ol Donyo Sabuk- Machakos
Makuli Hills- Makueni
Mbooni Hills- Makueni
Nthangu Hills- Makueni
Kilungu Hills- Makueni
Mbui Nzau Hills- Makueni
Yekanga Hills- Makueni
Nzueni Hills- Makueni
Makongo Hills- Makueni
Mutito Hills- Kitui
Kavonge/Museve Hills- Kitui
Mutuluni Hills- Kitui
Mumoni/Ngaikuyu Hills- Kitui
Kyawea Hills- Kitui
Endau Hills- Kitui
Mutha Hills- Kitui
Nuu Hills – Kitui
Mt. Nyiro- Samburu