Kenya abandons exploration of unviable Turkana water aquifer


Sicily Kariuki, the Cabinet Secretary for Water, Sanitation and Irrigation. PHOTO | POOL

The Ministry of Water has stopped exploration of the 250 billion cubic metres aquifer in Turkana terming it economically unviable.

This is due to the high cost involved in desalination, which would cost Sh50 million a month on power bills alone.

The Lotikipi aquifer was discovered in 2013 but since then there has been little activity going at the water point.

Water Secretary Samuel Alima said the water at the aquifer could not be used even for oil exploration because of high levels of salinity.

Mr Alima said at the moment, the project has been stopped until they figure out how to address the high cost involved in desalination.

“The water at Lotikipi aquifer has high levels of salt that would require desalination before we can use it. However, the cost of this exercise is enormous,” said Eng Alima.

Mr Alima said the salts levels are so high that the water could not be even used during oil exploration in the area.

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

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.

In 2019, Turkana County said it had partnered with a Saudi-owned Almar Water, which also has a contract with Mombasa County to put up a desalination facility, to construct the plant at a cost of between Sh5 billion and Sh10 billion. However, the project did not take off.

Mr Alima, however, said they will be exploring ways of utilising that water in future in order to address shortage in Turkana.

The plant was to be built on top of the Lotikipi aquifer, in Nanam village, a move that would come as a relief to Turkana households who have over the years had to walk long distances in search of water.

The Ministry of Water last week announced the projects that have been lined up for exploration in the coming months but did not include the aquifer.

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