Aquifers In Kenya: Discovery Could Revitalize Drought-Striken Area

Thursday, 12 Sep 2013 11:34 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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Five large aquifers found in drought-stricken northern Kenya could vastly help people in the area, as well as people all over the country, for years to come.

The discovery of the vast underground water supply in the Turkana region comes at a time when 17 million Kenyans lack an ample amount of drinking water and 28 million face sanitation concerns, the New York Times reported.

"This newly found wealth of water opens a door to a more prosperous future for the people of Turkana and the nation as a whole," Judi Wakhungu, Kenya’s secretary for the environment, water and natural resources, said in a statement, according to the New York Times. "We must now work to further explore these resources responsibly and safeguard them for future generations."

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The United Nations and Kenyan officials said the Lotikipi Basin Aquifer, which is the size of Rhode Island, and the smaller Lodwar Basin Aquifer were discovered using advanced satellite technology. Officials have started to drill the two basins.

The three other aquifers have yet to be drilled, the New York Times reported, according to a report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO.)

Turkana is one of the driest and poorest parts of Kenya. Most of the region's inhabitants are nomadic herders. Country officials say that land irrigation and clean drinking water could transform the region and provide jobs to drive people into the area.

"We're hoping with the two test boreholes, the water should be available within a month," Wakhungu told the BBC. "The first priority is to supply water to the people of the area, who have always been water insecure."

But Abou Amani, UNESCO's Africa hydrologist, is already urging officials to exercise caution while drilling, otherwise the aquifers could easily be overexploited.

"We need to put in place a sound management system," Amani said, according to the BBC.

Ikal Anglei, head of the non-governmental organization Friends of Lake Turkana, said that the government needs to engage with local communities more to make sure they benefit from the discovery first instead of outside groups.

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