Lake Naivasha is one of the greatest fresh water lakes in Kenya. Its located at the outskirts of Naivasha town in Nakuru county, a distance of 12.9 km. The lake has a surface area of 139 square km and is surrounded by a swamp that covers an area of 64 square km.
The lake is fed by river Malewa and river Gilgil discharging 80% and 20% respectively of the total inflow but has no outlet. The lake fills a shallow water basin with gentle slopes. Thus, both the area and the water evaporation increase with rising water levels. Its water levels follows the long cycles of wetter and dryer periods with the amplitude of about 12 meters.
Being a fresh water lake, Lake Naivasha supports a rich ecosystem with hundred of bird species, papyrus fringes filled with hippos, riparian grass lands where giraffes, zebras, antelopes, water-bucks and other creatures feed, beautiful swampy areas where waterfowls breed and feed and at the same time, magnificent views of the nearby volcanoes.
The volcanic formations in the Rift Valley have a high sodium content. The soils around the lake are developed on volcanic ashes, mainly composed of fine pumice grains. This soil is preferred in horticultural farming which is common around the region.
Apart from horticulture, local fishermen depend on the lake for fish. Although the lake is situated in a semi-arid zone, after the rainy seasons, the fragile soils of the surrounding hills and the valley bottom
produce grass where the pastoral Maasai bring their herds for dry-weather grazing, thereby depending on the lake and its various watering points.
Lake Naivasha is a tourist destination, although not a major one. There are two small national parks, Hells Gate and Longonot, in the vicinity and the nearby Aberdare National park.
The area’s beauty, birds, wildlife, its proximity to Nairobi, hotels and campsites attract many visitors, both local and oversees.
The lake is managed by a number of organizations. The main stakeholders of the lake include the government of Kenya, Nakuru county government and Kenya Wildlife Service. Other organizations include lake Naivasha Riparian Association, Lake Naivasha Growers Group and Lake Naivasha Fishermen Co-operative Society.
Generally, the lake is in a relatively healthy state and the water quality parameters are in good condition. Despite the greatness of the lake, a number of stresses has emerged over the years including:
- Agrochemical and sewage pollution.
- Water abstraction.
- Destruction of riparian habitats e.g papyrus.
Increase in flower and horticultural farming has led to a decrease in the lake water levels and pollution of the lake.
In regard to water abstractions and pollution of the lake, there is an ongoing discussion of the relative contribution of the floricultural industry versus the other water users in the basin. The recent introduction of sophisticated irrigation systems and better irrigation management has definitely led to a reduced water use.
Despite the highlighted negative factors affecting the lake, it has lots of benefits to offer ranging from social to economic advantages. Indeed Lake Naivasha is one of the greatest lakes in Kenya and its a place to visit.