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Hope for Turkana saline water as researchers intervene

The debate over the quality of water at Lotikipi in Turkana took a new twist after a renowned climate change and water resource expert differed with earlier reports that the entire aquifer was saline and unfit for human consumption.

The University of Nairobi Don Prof Gilbert Ouma says that the water quality index map for the Napuu aquifer in Lodwar recently developed by a team of researchers pointed to the possibility that pockets of non-saline water were evident given the shared characteristics of the two aquifers which he said had sufficient water to serve the nation for 70 years.

“There is reason to believe that we have pockets of non-saline existing at the Lotikipi aquifer and this can be proven by a thorough water quality analysis of different sections of the aquifer,” the don explained.

Prof. Ouma was speaking in Lodwar during an engagement forum with the County Steering Group when he presented a paper aimed at informing policy decisions on water harvesting, land use control, diversification of livelihoods, and use of early warning systems to improve the adaptive capacities of communities in Loima, Turkana South and Turkana Central sub counties.

The announcement comes at a time when Turkanas’ hope of exploiting the water resource for its use and supplying the entire nation with the same had been dimmed by reports from various sources indicating that the entire system was unusable.

Last month, Water Principal Secretary Samuel Alima announced that the Ministry had abandoned the exploration of the Lotikipi aquifer due to high cost in desalination.

Alima said the water could not even be used for oil exploration due to high levels of salinity.

County CEC for Water Services Vincent Palor said that the use of an evidence-based approach to inform policy and practice in revamping the water sector in Turkana was already paying off good results.

The County Water Chief Officer Moses Natome said that the news had come at such a time when the County was preparing to mark World Water in recognition of the important role of groundwater in sustaining livelihoods.

Natome added that the County’s commitment towards attaining a lasting solution to the water problem was greatly hindered by water quality concerns hence a reason to welcome the news.

By Peter Gitonga

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