Thursday, October 29, 2009

Clean Air = Dirty Water?

Check em out.

While you're there, check out the entire series of articles in the New York Times Toxic Waters Project. Several of the articles have good information directly applicable to our situation here in the Mara...for example..."Health Ills Abound as Farm Runoff Fouls Wells." The quote: "Dangerous pollutants in drinking water can be traced to the runoff of wastes from farm animals".

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Yes, you guessed it.

Yes, this is our engine being lowered out of our vehicle. We just spent the last few days fixing a minor problem which necessitated rebuilding our engine. Running like a champ now!

This is the beauty of doing research. Not only do you get to play in the also get to learn how to be a Land Rover mechanic!

Lifewater: The Mara River Basin Project

Looking for a good cause worthy of a donation? Check out... "Lifewater: The Mara River Basin Project".

Kesser Productions has partnered with Global Water for Sustainability to create an informative video that "will focus on the needs and issues concerning water in the Mara River Basin of Kenya and Tanzania."

Now is an important time in the basin with public/stakeholder awareness at an all time high...and possibly the political will to match.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Road Work

Up near the Mau...the roads need some work.

I don't actually think that this one was a road...but the community representative that was leading us to a water source was insistent that we could drive it. We DID drive it...but I still don't think it was a road.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ripped from the Headlines...

As seen in The Daily Nation today:

Rains came too late for hundreds of wildlife

"The water level in the Mara River dropped below the minimum sustainable levels and we lost about 500 to 600 hippos,” Mr Omondi said.

Where are we today?

Mau Forest, Isei River (flows into the Amala then into the Mara).

Monday, October 12, 2009

Masai Mara Lodges - Drinking Water Quality

During our routine sampling trips throughout the Masai Mara National Reserve we are occasionally asked by some of the more progressive Masai Mara Lodges about WATER. Some of the lodges provide water to their guests through the use of wells located within their property. We encourage them to check out this webpage: United States Environmental Protection Agency - Private Drinking Water Wells. This webpage is very important because it contains a great deal of information on how the lodges can protect their guests from waterborne diseases that may inhabit private wells. To my knowledge, all of the drinking water in all of the lodges is from imported bottled water (not the best solution). With that said, the rest of the water provided (showers, food preparation, etc.) is usually from a well located within the property, abstracted from the Mara or Talek river or transported onto the property by a water tanker.

The Masai Mara is an area with a large amount of wildlife. All lodges that have wells should be testing them routinely for coliforms. This page provides many good examples of of other tests that should be done dependant upon the area that the well is located within.

Most of these tests are very inexpensive but they will provide your guests with piece of mind. If you want more information, hit us up and we would love to stop by and help out during our next sampling trip. There are several water testing facilities located within Nairobi or some tests you can do yourself such as this method. Information is key.

The preservation of the Masai Mara is of the up-most importance. All of the lodges play a very important role in raising awareness and preserving the beauty of one of the greatest spectacles of the world. Get informed.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Solomon is famous amongst the Rangers at the New Mara Bridge in the Masai Mara National Reserve. He is the largest crocodile in that area and probably one of the largest in the Mara River.

He had disappeared from the bridge area for the last few months. We could not find him anywhere in the area. A few days ago, we found him a few bends of the river upstream. We speculate that the water level got too low for him near the bridge so he moved upstream to a deeper section of the river.

Solomon does not seem to mind people. He slept next to the river bank while we photographed him. He would look up at us every once in a while. We would watch his eyes open for a few moments and then he would go back to sleep.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nine Large

The Impact of Nature Experience on Willingness to Support Conservation

Here is something I don't believe anyone say coming. Taken from a recently released study...

Our results suggest that the type and timing of nature experience may determine future conservation investment. Time spent hiking or backpacking is correlated with increased conservation contributions 11–12 years later. On the other hand, contributions are negatively correlated with past time spent on activities such as public lands visitation or fishing. Our results suggest that each hiker or backpacker translates to $200–$300 annually in future NGO contributions. We project that the recent decline in popularity of hiking and backpacking will negatively impact conservation NGO contributions from approximately 2010–2011 through at least 2018.

So this means that visitors to the Masai Mara are not likely to contribute to a conservation NGO such as the Mara Conservancy and someone that has never visited the Masai Mara is more likely to contribute?

Friday, October 9, 2009


I just posted three recent reports on PES (Payment for Environmental Services) within the Mara River Basin. I also posted a few historical reports sponsored by WWF. There is a great deal of very good information contained within those reports about the Mara River Basin. Check them out in the "Project Reports" section just below "Mara River Flows Newsletter". Don't be shy...GET INFORMED.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I took this picture last week.

The actions that caused it happened last year.

Monday, October 5, 2009

60 Minutes Special on the Mara River

As mentioned in our May Newsletter, a fella doing some advance work for 60 minutes met up with us in Nairobi to talk about the Mara River a few months ago. We provided him with copies of our research, contacts of influential individuals to talk with and discussed some of the issues facing the Mara River. He told us to expect contact from the 60 minutes team upon their arrival in Kenya since we are currently the only researchers working on the Mara River in the Masai Mara National Reserve.

They never contacted us. Not sure why. I'm guessing they didn't contact us since they really didn't get into the science of the problem with the river. This actually worked out well for us because at the time they were there, we were working hard on developing a new water, sanitation and hygiene project in Tanzania. Robin Reid did provide the broadcast with a sobering perspective.

The broadcast does mention the clearing of forests to create wheat fields and the broader deforestation of the Mau Forest...which are two of the issues contributing to the reduction in quality and quantity of water within the Mara River. I would ask that WE...stakeholders in that basin not completely focus our attention on those two problems. They are important...but what is more important are the problems we can address; our neighbors illegally abstracting water from the river, the tourist camp site in my village that is illegally dumping untreated waste into the river, the poor land use practices in the upper catchment by the small landholder next door, the Eucalyptus trees planted on the river bank by my neighbor and other neighborhood level issues that WE, neighbors in this basin, can address. We can all create an enabling environment for the protection of the river through our educational conservation activities within our own neighborhood. Catalyze the environment around you and let it naturally spread through the basin. A good way to do this...join your local Water Resource Users' Associations (WRUA) and take charge of the future of your water security.

The special has been broadcast and you can now view it online. Check it out when you get a chance and let us know what you think. I haven't seen it yet since our internet is too slow but I did read the transcript. Here is a brief snippet that I cued in on...

The Mara River rises in a place called the Mau Forest and it meanders about 250 miles or so down to Lake Victoria. The Maasai tell us that there is less water in the river now than at any time they can remember.

Asked what impact it would have if the Mara River went away, Reid said, "We're not absolutely sure. But in the dry season it's the only thing that flows. And so if that water went away then the wildebeest population would collapse."

"What do you mean by collapse?" Pelley asked.

"You know, I don't actually know if there would be very many left, actually. Not just the wildebeest, it would be many of the other species that require water," Reid explains.

According to Reid, hundreds of thousands of animals would be lost. "In fact, the estimates are, and you know, this is a guess, is that if the river were to dry up completely, okay, in the very first week after it dried up we'd lose about 400,000 animals that would die."

"And, you know, maybe that's an overestimate. But, even if it's in a month, that's a lot," she added.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

September Mara River Flows Newsletter Now Available

A few of the questions we address...
  • Hippos eat meat?
  • What does Dissolved Oxygen (DO) actually mean?
  • So what if the wildebeest don't die in mass numbers in the Mara River like the "usual" migration. What effect could this change have on the system?
  • You mean drawing water from a borehole might actually have an effect on the Mara River?
  • But I thought PES was actually a small candy dispenser used to dispense surgary sweets (like this)?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Indecisive Hippo

This is the track of a Hippo that got out the water, realized it was too hot and then got right back into the water.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The OTHER Migration

We all hear about the Great Wildebeest Migration but we don't hear too much about the OTHER Migration going on near the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

We were driving to Kilgoris from the Maasai Mara a few days ago and the trip took about one hour longer than it normally would because we were caught up in the large Maasai cattle migration. Many Maasai families with all their cattle and their belongings strapped to their backs were making the long trek to the Transmara District from the Narok District. The Narok District has been particularly hard hit by the drought. The Transmara District has been relatively spared. The greener pastures are in Transmara so that is where the Maasai are headed.

We passed many Maasai families herding thousands of cattle. They were very gracious to assist us in passing by moving their cattle even after they had been walking for several days.

We had the good fortune of meeting with some Transmara County Council personnel in Kilgoris after this encounter with the migrating Maasai. We asked the Adminstrator how they would accommodate all the extra livestock and they simply stated that they would..."We are all the we must assist them in their time of need".

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Good News

Good News Indeed.

USAID East Africa Signs Agreement with East African Community's Lake Victoria Basin Commission to Conserve Mara River Basin

A three-year agreement for an estimated three million dollars was signed on September 23 between USAID/East Africa’s Acting Regional Director, Larry Meserve, and the East African Community’s (EAC) Deputy Secretary General for Finance and Administration, Dr. Julius Rotich. Activities to be carried out under the agreement will help ensure that the Mara River Basin, already in jeopardy, is brought under sound management for a long, healthy future. With headwaters in the Mau Forest, the Mara Basin watershed extends from Kenya to northern Tanzania (encompassing Serengeti National Park and the Masai Mara Game Reserve). The Mara River Basin also makes up part of the eastern rim of the larger Lake Victoria Basin area. Wildlife anchoring Kenyan and Tanzanian tourism rely on the healthy functioning of this uniquely integrated and rich ecosystem for their existence--and the survival of this ecosystem depends on the flow of the Mara River. Under the agreement, signed at EAC’s Arusha headquarters, the EAC’s Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) is responsible for facilitating and promoting sustainable cross-border Mara River Basin management. LVBC will also work to increase regional economic growth and integration and reduce poverty in the Mara River Basin. As a regional, intergovernmental organization, the EAC’s LVBC is strategically placed to harmonize policies for the conservation of this globally treasured area.

Economic Assessment of Best Management Practices in the Mara River Basin

George Atisa was a Master's student at Florida International University sponsored by USAID through GLOWS. He was here last year for a while working hard and gathering a ton of information that helped him produce this very informative thesis: ECONOMIC ASSESSMENT OF BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES IN THE MARA RIVER BASIN: TOWARD IMPLEMENTING PAYMENT FOR WATERSHED SERVICES.

Here is the abstract:

The Mara River in East Africa is currently experiencing poor water quality and increased fluctuations in seasonal flow. This study investigated technically effective and economically viable Best Management Practices for adoption in the Mara River Basin of Kenya that can stop further water resources degradation. A survey of 155 farmers was conducted in the upper catchment of the Kenyan side of the river basin. Farmers provided their assessment of BMPs that would best suit their farm in terms of water quality improvement, economic feasibility, and technical suitability. Cost data on different practices from farmers and published literature was collected. The results indicated that erosion control structures and runoff management practices were most suitable for adoption. The study estimated the total area that would be improved to restore water quality and reduce further water resources degradation. Farmers were found to incur losses from adopting new practices and would therefore require monetary support.