The National Environment Management Authority – Kenya (NEMA) hosted the 4th Annual Effluent and Water Management Conference (EWMC), focusing on efficient conservation, provision and management of water in all forms. On 25 and 26 November 2014, members of the water and sanitation sector of all African countries were invited to the Laico Regency Hotel for a conference/ trade show showcasing the best strategies and technologies for water and sanitation supply and coverage.

“We bring the practitioners in water related businesses, both of the private and public sector, into a platform where they can exchange technologies, ideas and come up with solutions to make the water and effluent management practices better,” said conference moderator Achuti Mochama.

For the past three years, Mochama has been working as water and sanitation engineer for Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian agency specializing in emergency aid. 

“Every year we come up with new topics, which are related to effluent and water management,” said Mochama. “This year, we advertised the theme as ‘Sustainable Management of Water Resources.’ Under this category, we have talked about governance, natural resource management, treatment and harvesting of water.”

The two-day conference broke down into sessions covering issues such as “Mainstreaming Rainwater Harvesting” and “Natural Flood and Storm Water Management.” Each session varied between panel lead discussions, presentations made by members of the water sector and organized networking amongst participants.    

Geol. Gladys Kiangi, OGW presented on behalf of the Geological Society of Kenya. She discussed the practice of drilling for groundwater aquifers and the ideal role a geologist plays in the process, from start to finish.

“The Earth is very dynamic. Hydrologists are trained to handle surface water. Hydrogeologists specialize in groundwater,” said Kiangi. “Groundwater is different because you are dealing with a lot of unknowns – starting with the depth and the water quality. You can drill and find freshwater, and drill again half a kilometer away and find fluoride.  That’s why the presence of a geologist is very key in sighting, drilling, and test pumping.”

Kiangi’s main qualm stems from the boreholes that are created as a result of drilling for groundwater. Her concern is that more groundwater will become contaminated, rather than harvested, because geological management is not mandatory in the drilling procedure.       

“Geologists should be required to supervise the sealing of boreholes with the right materials. This would call for more than the placement of a cap on top of the borehole. The cap will rust, it will fall off and once it falls off it becomes impossible to find where the borehole is,” said Kiangi. “This is a problem because you’ve drilled about 150 meters into the ground to create the borehole so all sorts of contaminants can make their way into the groundwater. If your borehole has failed or you no longer have use for it, then seal it and seal it correctly.” 

Likeminded specialists also shared what they believe are the greatest challenges the water and sanitation sector faces, along with innovative solutions to meet the ever-rising demand for water in a sustainable manner. Participants asked the experts follow-up questions after each presentation. The forum created an opportunity for open dialogue amongst members of both the public and private sector. 

“The way the presentations came in and the way the question and answer was formatted was done very well and articulately,” said conference attendee Nancy Sikukuu. “As a country we have to embrace and accept the new developments, policies, and technologies that have been made in water, for our own benefit.”    

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Kenya Engineer is the definitive publication of Engineers in East Africa & beyond and the official journal of the Institution of Engineers of Kenya. Kenya Engineer has been in publication since 1972.

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