Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Delaware-Sized Lake Discovered beneath Kenya Desert

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Delaware-Sized Lake Discovered beneath Kenya Desert

Article excerpt

Scientists using technology for discovering oil have found a vast underground water reservoir in one of Kenya's driest regions that could supply the country's needs for nearly 70 years, potentially turning arid zones into lush farmlands.

The new reserves are located in a basin in the extreme northwest that has a surface area the size of Delaware, and is estimated to hold billions of gallons, nearly nine times Kenya's current reserves.

Almost half of Kenya's 41 million people have no access to clean water, and farmers in arid areas struggle to raise crops without adequate irrigation.

Scientists say it is possible that, along with water run-off from surrounding hills and plains that replenish the aquifer, the newly discovered resources could fulfill the country's water demands indefinitely.

Tapping the new reserves in the basin, located in Kenya's northern Turkana region, may allow for vast new zones of farmland in landscapes where today even the hardiest plants struggle to survive.

"The news about these water reserves comes at a time when reliable water supplies are highly needed," Judi Wakhungu, cabinet secretary at the Kenyan environment, water, and natural resources ministry, said in a statement.

"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," Ms. Wakhungu added. "We must now work to further explore these resources responsibly and safeguard them for future generations."

The hitchIf there is one hitch, the basin is in a remote area in the extreme northwest. It lies close to Kenya's borders with South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Uganda in an area sparsely populated and prone to conflict over existing scarce resources.

The land that lies above the reservoir is among the most hostile in Kenya. There are few roads or electricity supplies, and the Turkana, Samburu, and Pokot tribes that live there are regularly at war with each other.

The border area between Kenya, South Sudan, and Ethiopia, known as the Ilemi Triangle, has never been officially delineated. …

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