Resident’s hope dimmed as aquafer water unfit for use

Early research findings deemed the water unfit for use due to high salinity. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

The discovery of a massive aquifer in 2013 brought hope to the Turkana community who suffered perennial water shortage for decades.

Radar Technologies International, in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), made the discovery through a project funded by the Japanese government.

According to the findings, the Lotikipi Basin aquifer contains 200 billion cubic metres of water covering an area of more than 4,100 kilometres squared.

Mr John Epem, a Lodwar resident, said they thought the discovery would alleviate their suffering.

Another resident, Mr Philip Emuron, added that more people would take up large-scale farming.

“We will be in a position to supply vegetables and other food to the rest of the country,” Mr Emuron said.

At the time of discovery, the government had announced that the water would spur growth and reduce poverty.

However, early research findings deemed the water unfit for use due to high salinity.

But Prof Gilbert Ouma, a University of Nairobi climate change and water expert, recently differed with the report. He said it is not possible that the entire Lotikipi Basin aquifer in Turkana West Sub-County is saline.

Prof Ouma said the water quality index map for the Napuu aquifer in Lodwar, which shares characteristics with the Lotikipi Basin aquifer, shows some pockets of non-saline water.    

“We have pockets of non-saline water at Lotikipi. This can be proven by a thorough water quality analysis of different sections of the aquifer,” he said.

The university don said the water can be used for human consumption, livestock use, and farming.

The Lotikipi and Lodwar basin aquifers were identified using advanced satellite exploration technology.

Water experts say there is a need for further studies to adequately quantify reserves and assess water quality.

Prof Ouma recently spoke in Lodwar during an engagement forum with the County Steering Group when he presented a paper to inform decisions on water harvesting, land use control, and diversification of livelihoods.

Head of underground water in Turkana County, Ms Vivian Esekon, said there is a need to match the social and scientific approaches to understand water resources in the region.

“It’s through a scientific research approach that we will understand the complexity of an aquifer system. It is not right to conclude that the entire aquifer is saline,” Ms Esekon said.

County Water chief officer Moses Natome said the news had come when the county was preparing to mark World Water Day today.