Kenya Aquifer: Massive Underground Reservoir Holds 70 Years' Worth Of Water

By Philip Ross on September 11, 2013 11:58 AM EDT

kenya
A Kenya aquifer was discovered 300 meters below the Earth’s surface. It’s 25 times larger than Loch Ness Lake, and could meet Kenya’s water needs for the next 70 years. (Photo: Creative Commons)

A massive aquifer was discovered in the arid Turkana region of northern Kenya, one of the driest and poorest parts of the country. The large underground reservoir, dubbed the Lotikipi Basin Aquifer, holds enough water to meet all of Kenya's water demands for the next 70 years, ITV News reports.

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How much water is there in the Kenya aquifer exactly? According to MSN, Lotikipi Basin Aquifer is said to contain about 200 billion cubic liters of water.

"This newly found wealth of water opens a door to a more prosperous future for the people of Turkana and the nation as a whole," Judi Wakhungu, Kenya's Environment Minister, said at a UN meeting on Wednesday. "We must now work to further explore these resources responsibly and safeguard them for future generations."

The Turkana region is home to mostly nomadic herders who are especially vulnerable to drought and dry weather. UNESCO reports that some 17 million of Kenya's 41 million people don't have safe water. The Kenyan government hopes the aquifer could be the answer to Kenya's water problem.

Located more than 300 meters underground, the massive Kenya aquifer measures approximately 62 miles by 41 miles, and has a surface area of about 1,600 square miles -- 400 square miles larger than the state of Rhode Island. It holds 900 percent more than Kenya's current water reserves, ITV reports.

The Kenya aquifer was actually discovered by a group of scientists from the Radar Technologies International, or RTI, a France-based firm that specializes in groundwater and soil exploration for agriculture. Researchers used space based exploration technology called WATEX and radar to locate the aquifer. From the RTI website:

The WATEXTM - short for "water exploration" - System is a unique field-proven proprietary technology that prospects and explores sub-surface water, soils and geology in order to enable and support effective hydrogeological investigations with optimal certainty. It is the result of years of research and development by RTI.

An aquifer is water stored below ground. If ground is permeable, water will seep into the pores of the Earth and collect in reservoirs underneath. The surface of an aquifer is referred to as the water table.

The best example of this is to think about digging a hole at the beach, where the water level is very close to the surface of the ground. When you reach a few feet down, water begins to appear in the base of the hole. That's the water table, and you've just created a well.

As The Guardian notes, the Kenya aquifer is not only massive, it also replenishes itself from mountain runoff. "The annual recharge rate, the amount of water that can be sustainably exploited per year, is estimated to 3.4 billion cubic meters, nearly three times the water use in the New York City," The Guardian reports.

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