By Olive Burrows, 11 September 2013
Nairobi — The discovery of the biggest aquifer yet in Kenya’s history could soon put an end to the drought residents of Northern Kenya experience perennially.
The aquifer discovered by UNESCO in Lotikipi of Turkana County is said to have the potential to grow Kenya’s water reserves by about 10 percent for the next 70 years at an abstraction rate of 1.2 billion cubic metres annually.
Scientists involved in the project say the discovery is even greater in significance to the black gold discovered in Turkana a few years ago.
“UNESCO is proud to be a part of this important finding, which clearly demonstrates how science and technology can contribute to industrialization and economic growth, and to resolving real societal issues like access to water,” UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, Gretchen Kalonji said.
The Lotikipi aquifer is said to hold 200 billion cubic metres of fresh water replenished by underground streams and no one knows how much of a game-changer the aquifer is than the Turkana residents who have for decades spent their lives in the search for water.
“You have no idea what this means for out people. After years of being marginalized, our fortunes have finally changed. First with oil and now with fresh water greater than the salt water of Lake Turkana,” one resident testified.
Water Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu is cognizant of the benefit the discovery will have not only for the arid and semi-arid communities that surround the 4,164 Km2 aquifer, but for Kenya as a whole.
“Accessibility to water and improved socioeconomic life is destined for improvement especially for the most vulnerable populations in Kenya; the displaced, the poor, women and children will now have a more viable access to water and ultimately a chance at a better life,” she said.
The government, she revealed, is now working toward getting the water out of the ground and into the hands and mouths of those who need it desperately, “it should be ready for use in the next one to two months.”
A smaller aquifer, one of five ear-marked for exploration in Northern Kenya, was also discovered in Lodwar and should contribute 10 billion cubic metres to Kenya’s water supply.
The government is now also looking to roll-out the Japanese funded project nationwide at a cost of Sh1.5 billion using the satellite, radar and geological technology that was used to find water 300 metres underground in the Lotikipi plains.