Reckless drilling threatens the aquifers

Unplanned drilling of boreholes to deal with water shortage could affect the ground water resources in the country in the long-term, leading water and energy solutions company, Davis & Shirtliff has warned.

The company has said indifference to the legislation that governs drilling of boreholes could ultimately have adverse effects on the aquifers and the quality of water in them.

It is time, Davis & Shirtliff chief executive officer David Gatende says, Kenya sought ways to protect her surface and underground water resources effectively, sighting instances where people are drilling boreholes within few meters of each other yet the law requires boreholes must be at least 100 meters apart.

“Drilling boreholes is a science that must follow strict rules to ensure they are beneficial to all dynamics including the environment. People are looking for the cheapest and quickest way to have boreholes and this is threatening to deplete the resources,” Mr Gatende says.He says that before drilling a borehole, both a hydro-geological survey and an Environmental Impact Assessment test have to be carried out and the results submitted to the relevant authorities.

The hydro-geological survey is meant to determine availability of water below the ground and the depth at which water is likely to be struck. A test pumping exercise is carried out after the drilling to determine the amount of water the borehole will yield. All this data should be submitted to the Water Resource Management Authority (WARMA), which is the supervising authority.

WARMA has the mandate to develop policies that govern the conservation of groundwater by balancing sustainable use and national development. The authority issues permits required for abstraction of water from all machine-drilled boreholes, that excludes hand dug shallow wells. The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) on the other hand gives the nod after the submission of data from an Environmental Impact Assessment test.

“Failure to carry out a thorough due diligence can cause a number of problems to the aquifer the borehole will tap from. Due diligence involves making sure that the material used to construct the borehole will not for example contaminate the surrounding area. It is important to involve hydrogeologists who design and carry out tests that make sure the borehole performs as expected,” says Gatende.

Some of the issues that may arise from lack of due diligence before drilling a borehole include depletion of the aquifer especially if the replenishing of the aquifer was not put into consideration and having a dry or low yielding borehole among others.

In 2016, Nairobi County alone reported 4,000 illegal boreholes that had been dug without the authorization from the supervising authority.  The report at the time stated that out of about 6,000 boreholes in the city, only 2,000 were in the WARMA’s borehole database system

‘’It is important to note that Kenya has enough water resources for all types of use including irrigation, but the sustainability of these resources is pegged on proper planning and flagrant disregard for best practice would be disastrous for the country,” he says.

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