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Update: Kenya’s Turkana Water Reserve

Last month, news broke of a giant water reserve discovered in Kenya’s Turkana region. While initially this holds optimistic prospects in theory, we have perhaps gotten so carried away in our enthusiasm as to risk overlooking some of the kinks presented with this discovery.

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Image source: Google Image

Just as a quick refresher, the water reserve in question was the largest of the five unearthed this year in Turkana, which lies in the northwest of Kenya. The aquifer, since named the Lotikipi Basin, is indeed colossal, spanning approximately 62 by 41 miles. It also holds more than 900% of Kenya’s current water reserves. But quantity is only one concern when taking the next step to actually obtain this water.

While the Lotikipi Basin is anticipated to provide the region with enough water for the next 70 years, the estimated rates of consumption are likely to prove unreliable in the future. Sure, they are accurate portrayals based on the country’s current levels of water usage. However, if Kenya was able to access this water, there is a great chance their usage would spike. Especially with the increased irrigation of agricultural land.

But this assuming Kenyans get adequate access to the aquifer’s water – much less that of quality. What must first be determined is how the water is to be distributed and used. At the moment, Kenya already has an adequate amount of water stores, even before the discovery of Lotikipi. The problem is securing the water and ensuring it is safe for consumption. Of Kenya’s 41 million people, 40 percent of the population still don’t have access to safe water supply, with 28 percent receiving water that is unsanitary.

This is not to slight the potential of the reserve, as the Kenyan government at least has appeared to respond to local calls to quicken the process of harvesting the aquifer’s water stores. Whether the water will be accessible within the month as promised is still to be seen.

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