Geophysical Studies to Improve Groundwater Resource Availability in the Kakuma Refugee Camp and Town Site

Geoscientists Without Borders
Water Management Projects

This geophysical program is intended to improve the water supply of the Kakuma Refugee Camp as well as the water supply in the immediate surrounding area.

The Kakuma Refugee Camp is located in the semi-arid Turkana County of northwestern Kenya. Turkana County is the largest and most impoverished county of Kenya, with a population of about 1,000,000. The Camp, which presently provides asylum to approximately 185,000 refugees from about 16 countries in East Africa, was designed for a Camp population of 100,000. The conflict in South Sudan resulted in more than 46,000 refugees coming to Kakuma since December, 2013. UNHCR is preparing to receive an additional 50,000 refugees in the near future, more than doubling the initial design capacity of the Camp.

Water supply, of course, is perhaps the critical material constraint on sustaining the Camp population, as well as expanding for the increasing population. UNHCR’s target provision of potable water is 20 liters per person. Presently, refugees are provided an average of 17 to 18 liters per person from 12 operating pumps. After chlorine treatment, water quality from a microbiological perspective is considered to be good, though fluoride concentrations are generally high, often several times WHO guidelines. Additionally, the Camp water supply is faced with the challenges of increasing salinity during drought conditions, an uneven geographical distribution of water wells, frequent well failures, dry or saline exploratory boreholes, and an incomplete understanding of the aquifer systems of the area.

Status Complete

Statement of Work

This geophysical program is intended to improve the water supply of the Kakuma Refugee Camp as well as the water supply in the immediate surrounding area (Kakuma town site and possibly the Turkana internally displaced persons [IDP] camp). In addition, an improved understanding of the aquifer system of the area, training to refugees and local Turkana, and training to Kenyan professionals are intended consequences. Geophysical surveys will be carried out with the intent of delineating saturated freshwater sand and gravel aquifers. This will be carried out by using a combination of seismic refraction and electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) for depth to volcanic bedrock, as well as using ERT for salinity mapping. Tying these surveys to existing wells of known geology, water chemistry, and yield will provide interpretational ground truthing. Exploration survey locations will be chosen partly based on areas of proposed water well drilling by UNHCR, NGOs, church organizations, government bodies, or other groups or individuals. The ultimate goal is to provide improved access to water, as well as the understanding and means to continue to improve the situation.

Principal Investigator

Paul Bauman , WorleyParsons

Team members

Landon Woods, University of Calgary
Alex Theran, IsraAID
Erin Ernst, WorleyParsons
Randy Shinduke, WorleyParsons
Boniface Muraya, Kenyan Water Institute
Students from the IsraAID WASH (WAter, Sanitation, and Hygeine) program

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