Big Find Under Kenya: Rhode Island-Sized Lake

It, along with 2nd aquifer, could supply country for 70 years

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 12, 2013 8:51 AM CDT

(Newser) – It's another kind of liquid gold: Technology typically used to find oil has instead led scientists to massive lakes, or aquifers, hundreds of feet beneath some of Kenya's driest land. UNESCO yesterday announced that five aquifers were identified and two have thus far been verified in the Turkana region. The New York Times reports one is roughly the size of Rhode Island, and NPR reports that scientists described the aquifers' orientation as like a small stack of "interconnected pancakes." The two hold enough water to turn the dusty region into farmland and sate Kenya's water needs for 70 years—or more. It's possible that run-off from the adjacent hills feeds the underground reservoir, which would expand that timeline, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

It's big news for a country that struggles mightily with access to safe drinking water, but there are also some big hurdles. The basins sit in the far northwest, which happens to be one of the country's most conflict-prone areas, and maintaining boreholes and piping the water would be no simple task. Still, Kenya seems optimistic. "We're hoping with the two test boreholes, the water should be available within a month," an official tells the BBC. (Another massive aquifer was identified last year in Namibia.)

Turkana people wait in a line to receive food during a famine in central Turkana district, Kenya, where underground aquifers have been found.
Turkana people wait in a line to receive food during a famine in central Turkana district, Kenya, where underground aquifers have been found.   (AP Photo/Tobin Jones, File)
An elderly woman and her husband wait during a famine for the distribution of food from Oxfam, in central Turkana district, Kenya.
An elderly woman and her husband wait during a famine for the distribution of food from Oxfam, in central Turkana district, Kenya.   (AP Photo/Tobin Jones, File)
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