Tue, Jul 03, 2018 - Page 9 News List

Kenya takes a look into the unknown: its groundwater reserves

By Isaiah Esipisu  /  Thomson Reuters Foundation, UKUNDA, Kenya

The tool would provide those answers and allow the government to better understand the impact of issuing a new license.

“Through this tool, the regulator can easily tell when water levels in the aquifers are going down and that way it will be easier to control the amount of water that can be extracted for industrial use at any given time,” he said.

Kenyan Water Resources Authority surface water officer Ahmed Mbarak said that the new information would prove useful to his office’s ability to monitor groundwater levels and decide about licenses.

“With the changing climatic conditions, such information will be a golden resource, as it will supplement some of the data we already have,” he told reporters by telephone.

It could “help us fine-tune our rules that govern the issuance of licenses for groundwater extraction,” he said.

The tool developed would prove useful elsewhere in the country, too — not least in the capital, Nairobi, which is struggling to meet water demand, Olago said.

Nairobi’s main water source is the Ndakaini dam, which lies about 50km north of the capital. It supplies about 85 percent of the 500 million liters of water that the city uses each day. However, demand is about 700 million liters.

The level of the dam’s reservoir has dropped considerably and, despite heavy rains, the government said that water rationing in the capital would continue until 2026.

As a result, households and companies are sinking boreholes.

In the 1980s, boreholes in Nairobi were drilled to a depth of 80m, but today, they need to go down 400m, said Mike Lane, a hydrologist with Rural Focus.

“We are chasing the water down and that is not sustainable,” he said.

That is happening elsewhere too, Lane said. The water table has retreated in the flower-growing area of Naivasha, which lies 100km northwest of the capital, as well as in Nanyuki, about 160km north of Nairobi.

Meantime the study also revealed a key risk to the Msambweni aquifer, Wara said.

If too much water is extracted, saltwater from the same sparkling seas that draw the tourists to Diani Beach could leak in, destroying the aquifer.

“It is therefore absolutely paramount that these water resources need to be protected,” he said.

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