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Initial tests on a vast aquifer found in Kenya’s drought-wracked Turkana region show the water is too salty to drink.
The 2013 discovery of underground lakes in Kenyaâ€™s arid region in Turkana brought hope to some of the 135,000 people in need of food assistance there.
Satellite imagery show the two aquifers were the size of the U.S. state of Delaware.
Two years later, hope is quickly fading as the first test results from Lotikipi – the largest aquifer which is close to Kenya’s border with South Sudan – show the water is too salty to drink.
After drilling 350 meters underground, saline levels are seven times higher than considered safe by the World Health Organization (WHO).
But Jackson Edung, a water officer in Turkana, noted that the report did not tell the whole story, because some adjoining wells were within acceptable saline limits and could help alleviate the problems of the arid region.
“Thatâ€™s a negative report. That water, it has no alkalinity. In fact the alkalinity of that water is less than seven and that water can be used for agriculture and livestock. In fact in most cases around that borehole there other more wells that can be found and thereâ€™s no salinity,” he said.
Kenyaâ€™s northern region is susceptible to recurrent drought which decimates livestock kept by the traditional nomadic herders. The statistics paint a grim picture. With an estimated population of 135,000, one in four people require food assistance.
Armed conflict over resources between the Pokot and Turkana communities further exacerbates an already dire situation.
Although cattle rustling is deeply rooted in the pastoral culture, raids have turned deadly since the herding communities became heavily armed, mostly with weapons inherited from the Sudanese and Ugandan wars, but also with rifles procured and misused by reservists in the Kenyan police.
With greater pressure on fewer resources, the consequences have been particularly dire for pastoralists, who make up 60 percent of the population in Turkana district. Malnutrition rates are above the emergency level of 15 percent.
Experts here are still hopeful that other wells could provide the answer to perennial water problems. Water Engineer Njoroge Ngare told VOA that a desalination program was the key.
â€œIt is very viable. What you do is you just desalinate water for human consumption, but water for other uses you donâ€™t desalinate you use it as it is. And therefore it is very possible. Already as we are speaking there are organizations who are desalinating water from the rift valley which ordinarily has very high levels of Flouride. It is a bit expensive but it is cheaper than tracking water to those communities,â€ said Ngare.
A stable water supply from the 250 billion cubic meters of water thought to be in Turkana’s underground lakes could help mitigate these recurring hunger crises. More than a third of Kenya’s 41 million people have no access to clean water.
In a first for Africa, a public-private water fund was launched in Kenya on Friday, bringing together businesses, utilities, conservation groups, government and farmers to fund upstream water conservation through activities such as watershed protection and reforestation.
The Upper Tana-Nairobi Water Fund was launched by the Nature Conservancy, a US-based NGO, which has used the same model in 32 initiatives in Latin America. Its partners in Kenya include East African Breweries Ltd, Coca-Cola, Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC), and electricity provider KenGen.
The 1,000-km Tana river, which flows from the Aberdare mountains north of Nairobi to the Indian Ocean, is Kenyaâ€™s longest, and supplies 95% of the water used by the capitalâ€™s estimated 3.4 million residents.
Imagine living with HIV and all the health issues and vulnerability it entails.
Now imagine that reality without having access to safe drinking water, a basic and hygienic toilet, and a way to keep yourself and your surroundings clean.
Unfortunately this is the reality for many in southern Africa, where an estimated 12.7 million people are living with HIV. Almost two thirds of the southern African population â€“ 174 million people â€“ do not have access to a basic toilet, and more than 100 million do not have safe water.
For Regis Sicheuunga, 48, in Hambale, Zambia, a diagnosis of HIV was complicated by the great difficulty of finding clean water close to home.
â€œBefore we had the hand-pump, I was given containers and chlorine by the hospital to keep boiled water because it is so important. I got the water from the well, it was a long wayâ€¦ Iâ€™d get up at 3am because if you were late the water would be gone,â€ she told WaterAid researchers before a new borehole and hand-pump was installed in her community.
In a region with such a high prevalence of HIV and poor water and sanitation coverage, it may seem obvious that the provision of safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (Wash) should be essential to support people who are HIV positive to live healthy and dignified lives. We carried out a study in partnership with fellow non-governmental organisation SAfAIDS: â€œAn integrated approach to HIV and water, sanitation and hygiene in southern Africa, to find out how well services for HIV and Wash were being integrated in Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Zambia, and to identify ways to improve the situation.
When you consider that taking antibiotic resistant virus (ARV) drugs alone requires 1.5 litres of safe, clean water each day, and staying clean and healthy requires up to 100 litres a day, it only makes sense to integrate these services. A person living with HIV needs clean, safe water for drinking, food preparation, laundry and washing, and for mothers with HIV, for safely formula-feeding babies.
Many life-threatening opportunistic infections are caused by poor sanitation and poor hygiene. Diarrhoea affects 90% of people living with HIV, and the overwhelming majority of cases of diarrhoea (88%) are linked to a lack of safe water, basic toilets and good hygiene.
Diarrhoea also makes ARV drugs less effective, by reducing the bodyâ€™s ability to absorb nutrients from food and medicine.
Our assessment, funded by the Anglo American Group Foundation, found weaknesses in links between Wash and HIV policies and guidelines.
At implementation level the links are ad-hoc, with limited coordination. It means that people responsible for working on HIV do not always consider access to water, good sanitation and good hygiene practice in their work, and people working on water and sanitation do not always understand the particular issues faced by people living with HIV.
The situation in each of the four countries is different, but in all of them there are opportunities for better integration. Programming for HIV/Aids is a priority for all four countries â€“ adding consideration for water, sanitation and good hygiene into this structure would not be difficult.
Alongside SAfAIDS, we are now drafting practical guidelines on how to combine approaches, so that more people with HIV/Aids are able to live longer, more dignified lives with the benefit of clean water, sanitation and good hygiene.
â€œ[The water] has been particularly beneficial for me as now I donâ€™t have diarrhoea, because with the diarrhoea it would reduce my high immunity,â€ Regis Sicheuunga said.
Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moonâ€™s message on World Water Day, to be observed on 22Â March:
This year, as the United Nations prepares to adopt a new post-2015 sustainable development agenda in September, World Water Day highlights the essential and interconnected role of water.Â We rely on water for public health and equitable progress, it is essential for food and energy security, and it underpins the functioning of industries.
The onset of climate change, growing demand on finite water resources from agriculture, industry and cities, and increasing pollution in many areas are hastening a water crisis that can only be addressed by cross-sectoral, holistic planning and policies â€” internationally, regionally and globally.
Among the most urgent issues are access to safe drinking water and sanitation.Â Despite progress under the Millennium Development Goals, adopted in 2000, some 750Â million people â€” more than 1 in 10 of the worldâ€™s population â€” remain without access to an improved water supply.Â Women and children, in particular, are affected by this lack, as not only is their health compromised, but considerable hours are wasted in the unproductive â€” and sometimes dangerous â€” business of collecting water.
The statistics on sanitation are even less encouraging.Â Some 2.5Â billion people still live without improved sanitation, and a billion people practise open defecation, making sanitation the least successful area of the Millennium Development Goals.Â We cannot achieve a world of dignity, health and prosperity for all until we address this urgent need.
Our sustainable future is also jeopardized by climate change, which is why United Nations Member States are working hard towards a meaningful, universal climate agreement this December in Paris.Â Over the coming years, greenhouse gas emissions will have to significantly decline in order to avert the worst impacts of climate change, which include changed weather patterns and the threat of water scarcity in large parts of the world.
To address the many challenges related to water, we must work in a spirit of urgent cooperation, open to new ideas and innovation, and prepared to share the solutions that we all need for a sustainable future.Â If we do so, we can end poverty, promote global prosperity and well-being, protect the environment and withstand the threat of climate change.
As the perils of climate change increasingly threaten the planet, the international community must unite in â€œa spirit of urgent cooperationâ€ to address the many water-related challenges facing humanity, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared today.
In his message marking the 2015 edition of World Water Day, observed annually on 22 March, the Secretary-General warned that access to safe drinking water and sanitation was among â€œthe most urgent issuesâ€ affecting populations across the globe.
â€œThe onset of climate change, growing demand on finite water resources from agriculture, industry and cities, and increasing pollution in many areas are hastening a water crisis that can only be addressed by cross-sectoral, holistic planning and policies â€“ internationally, regionally and globally,â€ Mr. Ban affirmed.
Despite progress under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), some 750 million people, or more than 1 in 10 of the world’s population, remain without access to an improved water supply, the UN has reported.
Mr. Ban added that women and children are particularly affected, compromising their overall health and exposing them to numerous hazards during the â€œunproductive and sometimes dangerous business of collecting water.â€
Moreover, the statistics on sanitation remain â€œeven less encouragingâ€ as some 2.5 billion people around the world still live without improved sanitation while another one billion practise open defecation.
In his message, the Secretary-General also warned that the gains made by the international community in working towards a sustainable future were â€œjeopardizedâ€ by climate change â€“ an imminent threat that Member States were prepared to tackle head-on in December when they gather in Paris to draft â€œa meaningful, universal climate agreement.â€
â€œTo address the many challenges related to water, we must work in a spirit of urgent cooperation, open to new ideas and innovation, and prepared to share the solutions that we all need for a sustainable future,â€ Mr. Ban stated. â€œIf we do so, we can end poverty, promote global prosperity and well-being, protect the environment and withstand the threat of climate change.â€
The dire straits facing the world’s water situation were further amplified in the UN’s 2015 World Water Development report, released by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and in time for today’s World Water Day celebrations.
According to the report, the planet will face a 40 per cent shortfall in water supply in 2030 unless the international community â€œdramaticallyâ€ improves water supply management. Demand for water is slated to skyrocket 55 per cent by 2050 while 20 per cent of global groundwater is already overexploited.
As a result, the report has urged the international community to devote an entire sustainable development goal to water itself â€“ from issues of water governance and quality to wastewater management and the prevention of natural disasters.
Sanjay Wijesekera, head of the UN Children Fund’s (UNICEF) global Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene programmes, similarly cautioned about the dangerous disparities in water access around the globe, noting that despite â€œtremendous progress in the face of incredible odds,â€ there was still more to do.
â€œWater is the very essence of life and yet three-quarters of a billion people â€“ mostly the poor and the marginalized â€“ still today are deprived of this most basic human right,â€ Mr. Wijesekera said in a press release.
On average, nearly 1,000 children die every day from diarrhoeal disease linked to unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation, or poor hygiene. In addition, in three countries â€“ the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique and Papua New Guinea â€“ more than half the population do not have improved drinking water.
In an effort to raise greater awareness about the importance of improving water quality and access, UNICEF has launched a social media campaign with the hashtag #wateris, the agency’s press release added.
Also marking the Day, the Special Rapporteur on the human right to water and sanitation, LÃ©o Heller, called for the UN’s post-2015 development agenda to boost incentives for governments, providers and donors to expand their reach to those still struggling with water access.
â€œWe need to aim for a higher rate of progress for disadvantaged groups, otherwise we will not achieve access for all in the foreseeable future,â€ Mr. Heller stated. â€œThe world will see real achievement and ‘leave no one behind’ only when the efforts of the post-2015 agenda reach and impact the lives of the most disadvantaged groups.â€
March 22nd is also known as World Water Day but there may be little reason to celebrate.
A new U.N. report revealed that the world could suffer a 40 per cent shortfall in water by 2030 unless dramatic changes are made.
As water reserves around the world continue to dwindle, demand is expected to increase by 55 per cent by 2050. The water shortage could lead to the failure of crops, permanent damage to ecosystems, the collapse of industries and the expansion of disease and poverty.
“Unless the balance between demand and finite supplies is restored, the world will face an increasingly severe global water deficit,” said the World Water Development Report.
The report was released in New Delhi, India as the country is one of the worst affected when it comes to depletion of aquifers. Experts are asking for major changes to be made when it comes to conservation as well as recycling of wastewater.
Singapore, despite a high average of rainfall, was still forced to import around 30 per cent of their supply. The deficit forced them to implement NEWater, an efficient wastewater recycling process. For plans across the country produce more than 400 million liters of water a day. Most of it ends up having industrial uses but 5 per cent of tap water in the country is NEWater.
“With NEWater, we’re less dependent on the weather,” George Madhavan, Director of Singapore’s national water agency told Deutsche Welle. “This ultra-clean high-grade recycling water is a sucecss story for Singapore and it’s a cornerstone of our sustainable water management system.”
A holiday for H2O
Sunday is World Water Day, a United Nations initiative to celebrate clean water and bring attention to those who donâ€™t have enough of it. A new report released ahead of World Water Day warns about a looming shortage, and centers on this yearâ€™s theme: water and sustainable development.
Here are five ways to celebrate World Water Day
Learn about poop water
First charcoal juice becomes a thing, and now poop water? Hey, Bill Gates drinks itâ€”thanks to a new machine called the Omniprocessor that literally transforms waste into water through a steam engine. On his blog, Gates writes about drinking a â€œdeliciousâ€ fresh glass of it and marvels at the possibilities to improve sanitation in low-income countries. â€œThe processor wouldnâ€™t just keep human waste out of the drinking water; it would turn waste into a commodity with real value in the marketplace,â€ Gates writes.
Take a break from meat
Showering and hydration are hardly your main uses of waterâ€”but food is. The average American uses 7,500 liters of water each day, according to the U.N. If youâ€™re eating meat, your water usage shoots way up; a steak dinner for two requires 15,000 liters of water for the meat alone. Eating more meat and dairy has been the single greatest factor for water consumption in the past 30 years, says the groupâ€”so going vegetarian, even temporarily, can make a difference.
Wash your hands the right way
Only 5% of Americans do, according to a study of men using public restrooms. (If you need a refresher on proper technique, you should use soap and water and wash for at least 15 seconds.) Sounds grossâ€”and it is a public health hazard, according to UNICEF, organizers of Global Handwashing Day, another water-related holiday worth celebrating. â€œHandwashing with soap prevents disease in a more straightforward and cost-effective way than any single vaccine,â€ supporter UNICEF writes.
On Friday, March 20th, 2015, The Coca-Cola Foundation will launch a water fund ahead of the World Water Day celebrations to be marked on 22nd March.
The fund is aimed at promoting watershed conservation activities in the Upper Tana Basin, which is critical for Kenyaâ€™s water and energy supply, and to increase access to water through protection of water towers.
WHAT:Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The Coca-Cola Foundation, Partners launch Water Fund
WHERE:Â Â Â Â Â Â Villa Rosa Kempinski Hotel
WHEN:Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Friday, March 20th, 2015
TIME:Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 9.00 am-1.00 pm
In attendance:Â Â
- Dr. Evans Kidero, Governor, Nairobi County
- Bob Okello, Public Affairs and Government Relations Manager, Coca-Â Cola East Africa
- Dr. Manu Chandaria, Chairman, Chandaria Foundation
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