From: Allison Winter, ENN
Published September 12, 2013 03:15 PM

Groundwater Reserves Discovered in Kenya

It has long been known that Africa has been facing a water crisis. Not only is the continent stressed because of erratic rainfall patterns, arid climates, and hot temperatures, but access to clean, safe drinking water is depriving much of the population of a basic human necessity. Specifically in Kenya, 17 million people lack access to safe drinking water. However, this all could change as an exploration of groundwater resources in northern Kenya has identified two aquifers in the Turkana and Lotikip Basins.

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Aquifers are underground layers of permeable rock that contain or transmit groundwater. So in a region known for being hot and dry, this discovery is bound to bring hope and economic growth to the country.

The findings were announced at the opening of an international water security conference in Nairobi yesterday, and are the result of a groundwater mapping project, GRIDMAP (Groundwater Resources Investigation for Drought Mitigation in Africa Programme), spearheaded by UNESCO in partnership with the government of Kenya and with the financial support of the Government of Japan.

Using advanced satellite exploration technology, researchers located the underground aquifers and then confirmed their existence by drilling to see if water was actually there. And there was! While there is a need for further studies to adequately quantify the reserves and to assess the quality of the water, people are hopeful. 

Announcing the findings during the opening session of the UNESCO Strategic and High-Level Meeting on Water Security and Cooperation, Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, said that the results were a critical scientific breakthrough for the country.

"The news about these water reserves comes at a time when reliable water supplies are highly needed. 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.

"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," said UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, Gretchen Kalonji. "It is indeed in line with UNESCO's vision for science for sustainable development and we will continue to support Africa to unlock the full potential of its invisible water wealth."

The Government of Kenya also announced the launch of a national groundwater mapping program that would be implemented with UNESCO, which would assist governments in identifying and assessing their groundwater resources.

Read more at UNESCO.org.

Water image via Shutterstock.

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