Uncovered water sources bring hope to Kenyans

Five water reserves have been discovered in Turkana, one of the driest and poorest regions in Kenya, giving new hope to its nomadic herder population and the rest of the country. A France-based firm, Radar Technologies International (RTI), used satellite imagery and radar technology that is normally used for oil drilling to scan the African continent for underground water sources. They identified five water aquifers, two of which were explored through drilling. The Lotikipi Basin aquifer holds around 250 billion cubic meters of water, and was discovered in Turkana, a region hit especially hard from a drought that has plagued East Africa for the past two years.                    

French General Manager of RTI Alain Gachet used the seismic technology WATEX, short for “water exploration,” discovering the aquifers only 300 meters below the soil. He tells the Guardian that in only ten years time, hunger and water insecurity will be aspects of the past. UNESCO reports that out of Kenya’s population of 41 billion, about 17 million are without safe drinking water, and that 28 million are without adequate sanitation. The aquifer contains enough water to support Kenya for the next seventy years, an encouraging statistic for a region that suffered from the worst drought in 60 years beginning in 2011. Since the recent 2011 drought, nearly 10 million have died or suffered from malnourishment. This water reserve will help provide clean drinking water, and undoubtedly ease the suffering and tribal conflict over water that has plagued this region.

Malnutrition and the inability to provide effective irrigation for livestock and crops are direct results of lack of water. Until now, many people go to Lake Turkana for water. This salt-water lake nearby has high levels of fluoride, and is considered unsafe for consumption, according to UNICEF. These underground reservoirs provide an abundance of clean fresh drinking water. The population is expected to be able to access the water within the month, and experts believe that this will lessen tribal tensions over water. There will be more resources, and groups will not have to fight over what is no longer scarce. The aquifer contains about 250 billion cubic liters of water, and Kenya currently uses only 3 billion cubic liters per year. If invested properly, these aquifers can help transform not only the Turkana population, but other Kenyan communities suffering from the effects of drought.

Cabinet secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources Judi Wakhungu states in an interview with Reuters that the next step is using the abundant resources properly. The Kenyan government needs to give local governments and individuals an opportunity to voice how the water should be used. While the first step will be providing locals with water, something they’ve been insecure about for years, Wakhungu says that it will also be invested for irrigation and industry purposes.

 Photo: gislafpg

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