A major discovery of aquifers in North Kenya has the potential to improve the lives of thousands of people in the region ‑ and the underground reservoirs could become test beds for new smart water system technology.
A total of five aquifers have been located below the surface of the country’s drought-prone northern region. The Lotikipi Basin Aquifer, which is estimated to be about the size of Rhode Island, and the smaller Lodwar Basin Aquifer were found by using advanced satellite technology and later confirmed with conventional drilling. The other three aquifers still must be confirmed by drilling.
The five aquifers hold a minimum of 250 billion cubic meters of water, or roughly 66 trillion gallons, say officials with Radar Technologies International, the natural resource exploration firm that detected the aquifers. Rainfall refills these aquifers with about 3.4 billion cubic meters (898 billion gallons) each year.
Windfall of Water
The water exploration project was a combined effort of the Kenyan government and the United Nations’ scientific and cultural agency, UNESCO, with financial support from Japan. More analysis is needed to determine precisely how much water exists among the aquifers, as well as the quality. If the amount is as abundant as first thought and the quality acceptable, the aquifers could support extensive irrigation systems and industrial development and provide drinking water for the region.
Officials are hopeful the find will become a boon to people in the area. Gretchen Kalonji, UNESCO’s assistant director general for natural sciences, said in an agency statement that the discovery “clearly demonstrates how science and technology can contribute to industrialization and economic growth, and to resolving real societal issues like access to water.”
One of the big challenges will be securing the investment money needed to build and maintain a distribution system that efficiently distributes the water to those who can use it. Another hurdle involves geography and regional conflicts. The aquifers lie in a remote area afflicted by tribal warfare where rival groups compete for scarce resources like water and cattle.
Although these newly discovered aquifers hold the promise of relief for the people in North Kenya, the government and water utility managers must now make sound investments in basic infrastructure and smart metering and monitoring technologies (as noted in Navigant Research’s Smart Water Meters report) to deliver on that potential while also sorting out tribal differences. If the Kenyans can work out these difficult issues, the result could be a model for other regions where perhaps yet to be discovered aquifers exist that could help reduce the pressures of dwindling water supplies.
Tags: Aquifers, Smart Metering, Smart Utilities Program, Smart Water Meters, Smart Water System
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