Replacing well water with a clean alternative in drought-stricken areas

Addressing water shortage in Turkana County

Joy Wanja Muraya
Job Wamalwa on his bike
26 April 2022

This story first appeared in The Star newspaper.

Because the riverbed is bone dry several shallow wells dug by local water vendors dot the landscape, accompanied by noisy generators, which pump the precious commodity to the surface.

Job Wamalwa does a brisk business in nearby Nakiria Kalokol, a town of 12,000 people in Turkana County, selling water from the wells in 20 litre jerrycans.

On an average day, he makes about five trips to his well and carries back about  10 jerricans each time, selling each for 3,500 Kenyan Shillings.

Known as Millie-J- combination of his wife’s name and the initials of his first name – the father of three says he’s been here for two years, having moved from Kitale, in the south.

“I love my wife, Millie, dearly. My motorbike and water business are named after her because she supports me,” he says. “She joined me here to make ends meet after life became too expensive at our home.”

Water shortage in Turkana
Water shortage are currently being experienced in Turkana County see water vending business popping up.

Here in Turkana water-selling is a lifesaving business as drought has led to shortage for both domestic and agricultural needs.

To combat the situation, UNICEF is taking part in a four-year water project, funded by the Korea International Cooperation Agency, which aims to increase the availability of groundwater for domestic use, to improve the functionality of rural water points and to improve sanitation and hygiene practices, such as handwashing.

Goats at a watering point in Lodwar
Goats at a watering point in Lodwar, Turkana County.

UNICEF WASH Specialist Jackson Mutia says under the project UNICEF and the Turkana County government have so far drilled 72 boreholes out of 76 planned for the region.

“The current water shortage is being addressed by drilling these boreholes and equipping them with solar-powered water pumps or hand pumps,” says Mutia.

“Bore water is safer than water extracted from wells, which can be contaminated with disease and needs to be boiled before drinking.”

He said the new pumps were providing safe water to more than 100,000 people in Loima and Turkana Central sub counties.

The importance of properly functioning water pumps has been recently underscored by United Nations Secretary General António Guterres who says ground water is the world’s largest source of the liquid.

“It sustains drinking water supplies, sanitation systems, farming, industry and ecosystems. Yet, some 20 per cent of the world’s aquifers are being overexploited."