The Search for Water…
In Turkana, approximately 80% of the land area is classified as arid or very arid and the environment is susceptible to frequent droughts with the average annual rainfall ranging between 300mm-350mm and temperatures ranging between 35ºC-45ºC. Water is sourced from a few lakes and rivers along with wells, dams, and boreholes located all over the county but distribution is uneven and inadequate for domestic and livestock use. Nearly ¾ of households do not have access to clean water sources and those that do, may walk up to 10km to reach these sources. Hence, water for the school and community was our first priority!
In October 2010, we contracted a hydrologist to help us find water by:
- assessing the physical terrain for possibilities;
- understanding the underground rock strata and how they lie; and
- understanding how the water might be affected by the underground formations.
Using the ancient practice of “water witching” (dowsing) combined with the more advanced technology of vertical electrical resistivity soundings, the availability of groundwater was determined. “Water witching” consisted of linking together two rods bent at 90 degrees angles, grabbing each rod below the bend, and walking slowly to see if the rods would suddenly go askew, indicating the potential presence of underground water.
Vertical electrical resistivity soundings were then carried out by directing a current into the ground through two electrodes to determine the thickness and composition of the underlying layers and identify water-bearing zones. Saturated rocks have lower resistivities than unsaturated and dry rocks.
The hydro-geological report concluded that the school plot is located in an area that is considered to have good groundwater potential. Furthermore, the site for borehole drilling was recommended in the northeast corner of the plot, 7km west of Lodwar town along the Lodwar-Lorugum Road and 1km from the floodplain of the Turkwel river. (Raw and untreated water from the Turkwel river is currently the major water source in the area.)
Drilling the Borehole
After obtaining the hydro-geological report, we secured a drilling permit from the Turkana Water Resources Management Authority. We began the process of drilling the borehole in mid-November 2010, contracting Drill for Life Kenya as our driller who mobilized their percussion drill from Kakuma (120km northeast of Lodwar). In percussion drilling, a heavy cutting tool (50kg+) fixed to a cable is lifted and dropped to chip and pulverize the geological formation below. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that water is required in order to drill for water! Water is necessary in the drilling process because it is added to loosen the material as well as to facilitate the removal of the resultant cuttings by a bailer.
Equipping the Borehole
After drilling was complete, Drill of Life Kenya also equipped our borehole by making the pump platform and spillway, inserting the PVC casings, and installing the hand pump. An Afridev handpump was chosen as it is specifically designed to meet the requirements of Village Level Operation and Maintenace (VLOM) – in other words, it is simple to install, operate and maintain at the village level.
The water will serve both the school’s staff and students, as well as members of the community, and will also be used to irrigate the school garden. It is currently being used to irrigate the planted trees on site and to make blocks for the construction of the school buildings.
In 2017, we began the construction of the water tower – an elevated structure supporting water tanks at a height of 6m to pressurize the water supply system and allow for the distribution of potable water throughout the school campus. The tower will support 3 water tanks holding a capacity of 10,000L each.
Construction of the water tower was made possible with support from Prairie Waters Elementary School in Chestemere, Alberta (Canada), whose staff and students through various fundraising events in 2016-17, including “A buck for a bucket” initative, raised $4,068.3o.