Huge Aquifers Are Discovered in North Kenya by UNESCO and Govt.

The United Nations and Kenyan officials on announced the discovery of a potentially enormous underground supply of water, a find they said could improve the lives of generations of people in impoverished northern Kenya, if not the entire nation. With water security a growing concern around the world, the discovery of five aquifers in drought-plagued Turkana County could help secure Kenya's access to the most critical of natural resources, particularly in the arid north.

Out of a population of roughly 41 million people, 17 million Kenyans lack sufficient access to safe drinking water and 28 million are without adequate sanitation, said the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, known as Unesco.

"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 secretary for the environment, water and natural resources, said in a Unesco statement on Wednesday. "We must now work to further explore these resources responsibly and safeguard them for future generations."

In addition to potentially providing drinking water, the vast underground supplies could be used as a source of irrigation for crops or to water livestock. Malnutrition has been a growing problem among the Turkana people, and a new supply of water could help head off conflicts over scarce resources in the region, where deadly cattle raids are common.

The finds were a product of cooperation between the Kenyan government and Unesco, with the financial support of Japan. According to Unesco, further study is needed to determine exactly how much water there is and its quality. It also remains to be seen how easy and expensive tapping the new supply will be.