Saudi firm in deal to tap Turkana aquifer water


Water Secretary Simon Chelugui. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Turkana County has partnered with a Saudi Arabia-based firm to desalinate the aquifer water that was discovered about seven years ago.

Tito Ochieng, director of water services in Turkana, is quoted by the UK-based Guardian newspaper, saying the county has contracted Almar Water to put up the desalination plant.

Saudi-owned Almar Water, which also has a contract with Mombasa County to put up a similar facility, will construct the plant at a cost of between Sh5 billion and Sh10 billion in a partnership that is expected to be sealed in the coming few months. Water Secretary Simon Chelugui said he was not aware of the contract but given that water is under the county governments, then they might have entered into an agreement with the Saudi firm. “The national government is not aware as that could be the arrangement between the county and the investor as water is under devolved units,” said Mr Chelugui.

The plant will be built on top of the Lotikipi aquifer, in Nanam village, a move that will come as a relief to Turkana household who have over the years had to walk long distances in search of water. Mr Chelugui said the national government is in talks with the oil prospectors in Turkana region for funding of a water line from Turkwel dam to Lodwar.

“We want to see if Tullow can help us to build a line from Turkwel to Lodwar so that the residents can benefit from this important resource,” he said.

In 2013, 250 billion cubic meters of water contained in an aquifer, which is believed to be the largest in the world, was discovered in Lokichoggio along the Kenya-South Sudan border.

Hydrologists project that the 250 billion cubic meters of water on the foot of Mt Mogila in Lotikipi could meet Kenya’s water needs for 70 years.

The water has, however, not been of use since then because of high levels of salinity that makes it unsuitable for humans and animals.

5,000 acres of land in Lodwar had been earmarked for irrigation using water from the aquifer which covers a surface area of 4,164 square kilometres.

The Lotikipi aquifer is located between Lokichogio and Lokitaung. The other aquifer is 16 kilometres from Lodwar and is partly fed by the Turkwel River.

A scientist who led the discovery of the large aquifers has called for caution in the drilling of water wells, saying overexploitation could lead to depletion.