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Huge water source found in Kenya could be accessed within a month

September 11, 2013

French company developed technology that found the water:

9/11/13, Kenya aquifers discovered in dry Turkana region,” BBC

“A huge water source has been discovered in the arid Turkana region of northern Kenya, which could supply the country for 70 years, the government says.

The discovery of two aquifers brings hope to the drought-hit region, tweeted Environment Minister Judi Wakhungu. They were found in the Turkana Basin and Lotikipi Basin using satellites and radar.

Last year, scientists released a map detailing the vast reservoirs which lie under much of Africa. Another aquifer was found in Namibia – the continent’s driest country. Turkana is one of the hottest, driest and poorest parts of Kenya and was hit by a devastating drought last year.

Many of the region’s inhabitants are nomadic herders, who are especially vulnerable to a lack of rain. Test drilling confirmed there was water under the ground. The discovery was announced by Ms Wakhungu at a meeting of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Unesco.

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. We must now work to further explore these resources responsibly and safeguard them for future generations,” she said.

The aquifers are said to hold some 250bn cubic metres of water. Ms Wakhungu said Kenya currently uses about 3bn cubic metres a year. “We’re hoping with the two test boreholes, the water should be available within a month. The first priority is to supply water to the people of the area, who have always been water insecure.”

Using the water for irrigation and industry would also be considered, she said. Massive oil deposits have also recently been discovered in Turkana.

The BBC’s Angela Ng’endo in the capital, Nairobi, says despite its burgeoning wealth, the region’s inhabitants have always felt marginalised. Abou Amani, Unesco’s Africa hydrologist, urged caution and said it was important not to “over exploit” the aquifers. “We need to put in place a sound management system,” he said.

The head of the non-governmental organisation Friends of Lake Turkana, Ikal Anglei, said the government also needed to engage more with local communities. “Unfortunately they’re not creating forums for us to engage with them,” she said….

According to Unesco, about 17 million of Kenya’s 41 million people lack access to safe water.”

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Access to water is affected by government mismanagement, lawlessness, poorly defined borders, attacks from Uganda, Sudan, and Ethiopia, cattle raids, and nomadic nature of population.

9/10/13, Kenya water discovery brings hope for drought relief in rural north,” UK Guardian, Martin Plaut

The aquifers could change the lives of people in the region. One, close to the main town of Lodwar, is said to have a proven reserve of 10 billion cubic metres of fresh water. The other, the Lotikipi basin, further north, towards the Sudanese border, is even larger, holding at least 200 billion cubic metres of water.

These aquifers are being recharged from the surrounding plains and hills, an area of 21,000 sq km, The study indicates it is being replenished at a rate of 1.2 billion cubic metres a year –

  • more than enough to supply the entire county.

The UN scientific and cultural organisation, Unesco, backed a France-based company, Radar Technologies, founded by Alain Gachet, which began the search for the water in November. Gachet, who cut his teeth as an exploration geologist in the oil industry, developed the Watex technology to interpret radar and oil exploration data in order to explore for water.

“We processed imagery from the space shuttle,” Gachet said. “This allowed us to build up a detailed surface map. Then we interpreted radar imagery from the Japanese space agency and deep seismic data from the oil industry. With this approach, we were able to peel back the surface of the earth like an onion.” Among his first customers was the UN refugee agency. At the height of the Darfur crisis, the technology helped supply the refugee camps that sprang up in the desolate regions of eastern Chad,

  • as people streamed across the border to escape the war.

But getting the water to the scattered people of Turkana will be no easy matter. This is among the most remote and lawless regions of Kenya. There are sporadic raids from neighbouring Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia. Drought and disputes over livestock have plagued the area for generations. The Turkana, Samburu and Pokot people have traditionally engaged in cattle raids, but in recent years these have increased in intensity, leaving many dead.

Oxfam gave a cautious welcome to the finds. McSorley believes the real test will be whether the infrastructure will be installed to allow the water to reach local people. He has been working at the giant Dadaab refugee camp in north-eastern Kenya for years. This lies close to another giant aquifer, but getting access to the water is not easy.

“Groundwater resources here are not an issue but many of the surrounding communities still lack a borehole or the pumps to access it,” he said. “Those that do cannot always afford the fuel to operate the generator to power the pump or have the cash to service and maintain the equipment.”

Turkana lies just south of the Ilemi triangle, a disputed border region, whose exact boundaries have never been agreed upon by neighbouring states. Quarrels over where the border runs began during the colonial period and continue to this day.

Attempting to police this remote region has been expensive. In the 1920s, British officials in Kenya and Sudan attempted to pass responsibility to one another to escape bearing the cost of the operation. The result was a dotted border running between the countries, leaving plenty of room for disputes….

Concern has increased in recent years, as oil finds have crept closer to the disputed border. The UK-based Tullow Oil company has been drilling in the area and found signs of oil in the Lokichar basin, south of Lodwar. The reserves are not yet proven, but if the region has oil and water, international attention is certain to be focused on the area.

Asked whether the combination of poorly defined borders and these important resources could raise difficulties for Kenya. Wakhungu told the Guardian that all the country’s borders have issues with transboundary water. “We manage these very carefully, but I can’t worry about the diplomacy. My brief is to look at the water resources.””

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