Huge water reserves have been discovered underground by scientists in the drought-ridden region of Turkana, Kenya, using satellite and radar technology. The incredible find creates the chance for other underground reserves to be located across Africa, which would bring new hope, prosperity and that for the most part of the next century at least, Africa’s drought problems could be solved.
The discovery of the underground water reserves came about when Alain Gachet, CEO from Radar Technologies International from France, had developed satellite, radar and geological equipment, with the use of a mapping system called WATEX, to locate the water. The WATEX mapping system was originally used to locate other mineral reserves, such as oil, underground. The Kenyan government and UNESCO had worked to put the team, with funding from Japan.
The scientists have now uncovered three huge aquifers, in both the Turkana and Lotikipi basins, containing around 250 billion cubic meters of water. An aquifer is a layer of underground where materials such as rock, sand and gravel, carry water, the reserves left over from rain. It is absorbed into the little gaps between the grains, like a sponge. Many impurities are removed as the water passes through the material, rendering it cleaner than surface water. The water can be extracted with the use of a well.
The Lotikipi aquifer, seen above, is much larger than the other 4 aquifers found in north west Kenya. In terms of distance, this aquifer, which lies approximately 1000 feet underground, is 62 miles (100km) by 41 miles (66km). It is reported to hold 900% more than the current water reserve of Kenya and is considered to be sufficient to supply water for all of Kenya for the next 70 years.
Scientists had also produced a map over the last year, revealing extensive reservoirs that exist underground, across many other regions of Africa.
This potential life-changing discovery can bring many benefits to Kenya, as well as the rest of Africa, with many parts of which have fallen victim to devastating famine, disease and drought. Kenya in particular, has suffered from ongoing drought issues, with the country’s nomads being required to move from location to location on a seasonal basis to find rainwater for their survival.
A professor from the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources in Kenya, Judi Wakhungu, said that this news has come at a time when supplies were desperately needed. She went on that the newfound water can open the doors to prosperity for the entire nation, but she expressed the need to exercise caution in working responsibly to safeguard the supplies for future generations.
Locals will no longer have to think about trekking for miles to collect their daily water, something which is taken for granted in other parts of the world. A report from UNESCO states that out of 41 million people, a staggering 17 million have no access to any water, which may be difficult to fathom, given the continent’s vast reserves in minerals. UNESCO’s Africa hydrologist, Abou Amani, echoed Professor Wakhungu’s warning to be cautious not to “overexploit” the newly discovered aquifers and that a “sound management system” needs to be implemented as soon as possible.
Ikal Anglei, the head of Friends of Lake Turkana, a non-governmental organization, expressed a need for the government to set up a forum to enable any form of engagement between itself and the community, as there was none. Anglei also mentioned the importance of the government being all-inclusive when it comes to making decisions that concern the drought-ridden community, which needs to be considered first and not in terms of the interests of pure economic gain.
What this find would mean for the perpetually travelling nomadic tribes of Kenya is that the water shortage issues would be solved for them. They would no longer have to trek for thousands of miles across arid land. They would be able to finally settle down and set up homes, resulting in the potential development up of farmland and towns, which in a ideal world, would lead to further industrial development, self-sufficiency and prosperity for the country.
Should a secure management system be put in place now, and provided the communities remain wary of mismanagement of this valuable resource, then something seemingly as basic yet necessary as fresh running water, the benefits of which can be taken for granted in the developed world, can put an end to poverty, disease and famine for the foreseeable future, at least, as well as solving the drought problems across Africa.
Written by: Brucella Newman