People in five counties who depend on rivers from Mount Kenya and the Aberdares have been forced to go without water following the suspension of all abstractions.
The residents are from Embu, Meru, Kirinyaga, Tharaka Nithi and Nyeri counties.
Abstrations were suspended on August 24 to allow for an audit and eliminate illegal abstrations lowering river levels.
Environment CS Keriako Tobiko and his Water counterpart Simon Chelugui suspended the abstractions.
The two said despite the country receiving heavy rains in April, May and June, several key rivers are already experiencing low flows.
Some are drying up. Specifically, the rivers emanating from the Mount Kenya catchment have recorded very low water flow yet the dry season is several months away, possibly from January next year.
"The likely explanation of this scenario is over-abstraction either by legal permit holders or illegal abstractors carrying out farming activities," the two said.
Additionally, it has been reported that within small segments of certain rivers, there is over-concentration of abstractors.
In some cases, there are more than 75 in one small river stretch, indicating either irregular issuance of abstraction permits or illegal abstraction by farmers.
Tobiko visited Mt Kenya Water Tower on August 18 to establish whether the cause of low flows is due to catchment destruction.
He established there was no logging and the forest cover is well-maintained, thus the low flow is not due to forest degradation.
Chelugui conducted a rapid field investigation on the upper reaches of River Sagana and Thegu River, whose source is Mt Kenya Water Tower on August 21.
In Sagana River, Chelugui found out there were about 75 intakes, while on Thegu River there are 45 intakes. The numbers are disproportionate or these short segments of rivers.
He said more than 30 illegal water intake points located deep in the forest diverted disproportionately large volumes of water from River Sagana through the forest into private farms outside the forest.
Chelugui found one four-inch intake pipe drawing water from River Sagana to the Kabaru Forest Station for tree nurseries.
The CS suspended all water abstraction permits on the stressed rivers for 14 days, pending verification of their authenticity by the Ministry of Water and Sanitation.
Chelugui has instructed the Water Resources Authority to destroy all illegal water infrastructure drawing water from rivers without abstraction permits.
Tobiko ordered all Kenya Forest Service officers in charge of the areas affected by illegal abstractions to be sent on compulsory leave immediately, pending disciplinary action and criminal investigation.
The two CSs have set up an inter-ministerial task force, co-chaired by the director, National Water Resources and the Environment secretary. The team is to present a report in four weeks.
Yesterday, Mount Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership said in a statement that there has been confusion over the directive.
“For clarity, MKEWP is advising its membership that it is only the illegal water intakes that will be demolished. We, therefore, advise those with legal intakes and valid permits not to fall victim,” it said.
It urged its members to refrain from practices that go against the law.