The Seven Forks Dams are located on the upper Tana River basin and they form a picturesque scenery for photographers and tourists alike. Tana River Development Authority (TARDA), under finance provided by the United Kingdom Ministry of Overseas Development commissioned Watermeyer Legge Piesold & Uhlmann (WLPU) consultants to investigate a long term Tana basin development strategy within the content of alternative plans for public water supply, irrigation and hydropower.
Full feasibility studies were started in mid-1975 and they confirmed the viability of an upper reservoir for the Seven Forks cascade hydropower complex with a potential of about eleven power plants namely Masinga, Kamburu, Gitaru, Kindaruma, Kiambere, Karura, Mutonga, Low Grand Falls, Usheni, Adamsons Falls, and Kora. The first five were developed between 1968 and 1988 while the remaining six are awaiting implementation.
The Seven Forks have a combined installed capacity of 543.2 MW. Water cascades from one station to another taking advantage of the lead created by each dam to produce power. During rainy seasons, excess waters are stored at Masinga reservoir and released during dry seasons to provide adequate flow during the dry periods.
Masinga Dam power station has an installed capacity of 40 MW and was commissioned in 1981. Power generated is transmitted to Kamburu power station for transmission to Nairobi. This scenic Masinga dam is the main reservoir with a capacity of 1.56 billion cubic meters of water. Masinga serves as a crucial reservoir used for water regulation throughout the year. The dam occupies a surface area of 120 square kilometers.
With an installed capacity of 94.2 MW, Kamburu Dam was commissioned in 1974 as the first underground power station in the complex. Water is conveyed to Gitaru power station via a 2.9 km tailrace tunnel.
Gitaru Dam has an installed capacity of 225 MW and was commissioned in 1978 (145 MW) and 1999 (80 MW). Gitaru is the biggest power station in Kenya in terms of installed capacity. Discharge from Gitaru is emptied into Kindaruma reservoir.
Kindaruma Dam is the first station to be constructed in the Seven Forks complex after being commissioned in 1968 and has an installed capacity of 44 MW. Water is passed down to Kiambere – the latest development in the complex.
Kiambere Dam has an installed capacity of 144 MW and was commissioned in 1988 with a reservoir capacity of 585 million cubic meters. The large power output is attributed to it being currently the last dam on the Tana therefore the machines run mostly as base load.
Ndakaini dam also known as Thika Dam is arguably the most famous dam amongst the people of Kenya attributing its fame to the Ndakaini Half Marathon, an annual event held in Kenya, whose proceeds go towards the conservation of the Ndakaini Dam catchment area.
The scenic Ndakaini Dam is located at the foothills of the picturesque Aberdares, some 70km from Nairobi, in Gatanga Murang’a County and accounts 85% of the water supply in Nairobi. Construction began in 1989 and was completed in 1994.
The technical features of the dam are as indicated below;
- Full water supply level – 2041 m above sea level.
- Capacity – 70 million cubic meters.
- Deepest end – 60 m.
- Surface area – 3 square kilometers.
- Highest point – 2070 m.
The Dam’s catchment area measures 75 square Kilometers. It consists of Kimakia and Gatare Natural forest which form Aberdare Ranges. The main rivers that drain into the Dam from this catchment are Thika, Githika and Kayuyu. Water is treated at the Ngethu treatment works.
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