Anti-Groundwater Extraction?

A few Friday’s ago, I saw an advertisement in the local dailies that I thought was ridiculous. I would have loved to share the image but I’ll just tell you about it. It was a drilling company that offered to end all ‘my water issues’ by drilling boreholes.

 

Let me start by saying that, my friend Po thinks that I’m anti-groundwater use but I completely disagree. What I am however is, anti-reckless-use-of-natural resources-whose-quantities-we-are-not-sure-of-and-lack-clear-means-and-methods-of-monitoring-their-extraction-and-use. A mouthful… I know…

Allow me to explain why with a background  from groundwater.org

Groundwater is found underground in the cracks and spaces in soil, sand and rock. It is stored in and moves slowly through geologic formations of soil, sand and rocks called aquifers.

Aquifers are typically made up of gravel, sand, sandstone, or fractured rock, like limestone. Water can move through these materials because they have large connected spaces that make them permeable. The speed at which groundwater flows depends on the size of the spaces in the soil or rock and how well the spaces are connected.

Groundwater can be found almost everywhere. The water table may be deep or shallow; and may rise or fall depending on many factors. Heavy rains or melting snow may cause the water table to rise, or heavy pumping of groundwater supplies may cause the water table to fall.

Groundwater supplies are replenished, or recharged, by rain and snow melt that seeps down into the cracks and crevices beneath the land’s surface. In some areas of the world, people face serious water shortages because groundwater is used faster than it is naturally replenished. In other areas groundwater is polluted by human activities.

 

Surface water on the other hand, is water that you can see such as lakes and streams. It is found above the earth’s surface.

So, instead of quickly turning to other options such as ground water and making it our main alternative, we need to keep the responsible authorities  on their toes for the proper management of the available surface water. Case in point, the river below…

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I don’t understand why it had all these watermelons during a drought.

See, when you have sufficient surface water. By that I mean, surface water of good quality and quantity, then there is barely need to extract groundwater. If you harvest rainwater in addition to the good quality surface water, then there’s no need to even think about groundwater.

Because, if we head in the groundwater direction and let our rivers turn into sewers, let the rainwater go to waste… we just may have research titles similar to the ones below in a few years…

Excessive Use of Groundwater Resources in Saudi Arabia: Impacts and Policy Options by Abdulla Ali Al-Ibrahim

or news articles such as

NASA Data Reveals Most Major Aquifers Depleting Faster Than They Recharge by Linnea Bennett

and

Beijing has fallen: China’s capital sinking by 11cm a year, satellite study warns

I understand that in some countries it is the only option. However, it is important that as the extraction is taking place, the amount being withdrawn is less or equal to the amount of groundwater recharge, for posterity.

It’s been a minute…

Or two! Almost a whole month since I last posted.

My first update… Green Element is now on Instagram! Wooohooo! Being a social media averse person, it took me a while to make this decision. I can confidently say that it was a good decision…well, at least so far. It is a nice place to showcase photos. You can check out the page here.

Second update… well, not really an update but a good suggestion. 😉  Check out Kevin Kimwelle, a Kenyan born architect who designs environmental friendly buildings. He has been nominated for building the ‘Most Beautiful Thing in South Africa’ on Design Indaba. You can read more about his project and vote for him here.

And because good things come in three’s… or so I hear… here’s the 3rd update.

Green Element turned 1!

Thank you for reading… 🙂

Nairobi Safari Walk

Last Sunday, Kadogo, an old friend of mine,  and I decided to catch up over nature. She came up with the most brilliant idea of meeting up at the Nairobi National Park (Kenya’s first national park), to do the Nairobi Safari Walk.

nature-walk

At the entrance, they have this little cabinet:

untitled-design

 

I opened it and burst into laughter when I saw the mirror. The last thing I expected to see was my reflection. Such a creative way of passing the message that You and I pose the biggest threat to biodiversity.

These are some of the interesting things we saw…

Creative signposts

Pygmy hippo

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Spot the giraffe… 🙂

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Yum!

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One of these worms/ caterpillars escaped on MY DRESS. I probably need to mention that many things with more than 4 legs or less than 2 legs, terrify me!

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Rhino (Not sure whether it’s black or white)

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Such a peaceful and refreshing walk. You can also opt to go on a game drive or visit the Animal Orphanage whilst there.

Read more about the safari walk here.

 

 

 

Happy New Rant

It’s too early in the year to rant… but this is necessary…

GIPHY Originals annoyed sassy sigh hair flip

Nairobi residents have began the year with a term I haven’t officially heard for ages. “Water Rationing”. Last time the residents heard of this,was during the El Nino of 1998- 2000. During that period, Nairobi residents learnt to be prudent with all matters water by ensuring that they had water pumps for those who could afford it and enough storage containers  so that they were not left high and dry… see what I did there…:D , in the periods when there is no water. Prior to that first rationing, very few people knew what a water pump sounded like.

What fascinates me with the rationing however, is not the fact that we’ll have to wait until the wee hours of the morning to get a trickle of water into lucky vibuyu (jerrycans). Or the fact that there already was water rationing in most parts of the city  but it hadn’t been officially announced. These are some of the fascinating things that I have witnessed with my own four eyes *(counting my spectaculars).

1. On the first day of rationing, I saw a ‘clean water’ tanker outside.
2. In many neighbourhoods, especially the middle class, family homes have been brought down to make way for flats or apartments… tomato…tometo.
3. For the longest time the grass on the pavements leading to the city centre were watered, without fail, every morning just as the sun was coming up.
4. Nairobi is a hotspot for floods… not only because of its geology but also because of littering.
5. I heard that rainwater harvesting is illegal. I’m yet to find this legislation.

I have questions on each and every one of these:
1. Where do these ‘clean water’ tankers get their water from? Who has given these companies the go ahead to supply water to households? Has the quality of this water been tested? Why can’t the county buy water from these vendors and supply it to its people?

2. When family homes are being destroyed to pave way for flats, when whoever it is that gives permits for connection of their water lines and meters, do they ever do the math and put into consideration the carrying capacity of that land in relation to the resources available? For example… if this area is supplied daily with 1000m3 of water for 20 households with 5 individuals each. The math is spoiled (direct translation from Kiswahili) when they build flats which will now accommodate triple or quadruple the number of people with the same amount of water to the area. So when they give permits for such buildings to be put up, do they do the water math?

3. This one for watering the grass… Hmm… With the little agricultural knowledge that I have, watering of plants is done before dawn or after sunset to reduce the amount of evaporation. But that’s not even the issue here… why on earth are we watering grass when we have people who last saw water out of their taps more than two presidents ago?

the office eye roll over it stanley hudson leslie david baker

4. Ants and Squirrels. These little creatures often store when they have excess of anything. Food especially. This is done in preparation for periods of lack. Same concept did Joseph second to Pharaoh use in the Bible times. Read Genesis…Can you imagine how it would be like if all the flood water was harvested in preparation for drought? Then there would be a substitute to the  water available.

My ideas of sustainable solutions would include:
1. Rainwater harvesting
2. Adequate storage of water when we have surplus… i.e floods.
3. Data… Collect data and use it. We need numbers on who needs what, when and where… We need data on the amount of water we have available and the exact uses for this water.
4. Water Recycling… We need a system that recycles waste water for uses such as watering grass.

General good water governance is key. The country has sufficient water but if badly managed, the water available will be inadequate to quench its people’s thirst.

Tidoptimist

Until a few months ago ,I was one; a tidoptimist, a time optimist. Then, I missed a presentation on land degradation that I really really really wanted to hear and see because of this ‘optimism’. I was extremely disappointed in myself because, I thought I had time. It got me thinking of all the times we have taken a while to look into issues that Mother Nature is having assuming that we have time or that the issue will sort itself out.

In the process, we have watched rivers dry,lakes shrink, glaciers melt, deserts spread, different plants & animals becoming extinct and we successfully created a hole in the ozone layer… all this in less than 150 years. *slow clap for humanity *. 😐

 

 

However, we are slowly but surely redeeming ourselves to Mother Nature. We have created policies, signed agreements, and made plans towards reversing the disastrous things that we have done to her. We are talking about it and making her care a priority.

BUT

Some of us aren’t taking it seriously. We think that, ‘time will heal’ and continue with the damage… deforestation, pollution, murdering animals for their parts (elephants, rhinos and pangolins)… Some of us even think that climate change is a hoax!

Time won’t wait for us. The clock is ticking.

TICK. TOCK. 

 

 

Ol Donyo Sabuk

My friend April and I love travelling and the adventure that comes with it. Last Friday, we took time to visit Kiambu/Machakos County (not sure which side of the border we were on) to enjoy the beauty and serenity of Ol Donyo Sabuk (in Maa) or Ol Donyo Sapuk (in Kamba) or Kilimambogo (in Kikuyu).  The last time I had hiked up this mountain was almost ten years ago and my motivation then was the barbecue that was waiting for me at then end. Slurrp!

With over 45 recorded bird species, this mountain is a bird watchers haven. Some of the species include, white-browed sparrow weaver, grey- headed sparrow weaver, African pied wagtail, mourning dove, augur buzzard, African hawk eagle and purple-breasted sunbird. I was also very fascinated to find out from our guide that he and other bird watchers ,can identify a bird by sound (unlike me who can’t identify a pigeon from a duck).

According to the Kenya Wildlife Service, the mountain also has a large number of buffaloes,  mongoose, bushbuck, olive baboon, colobus monkey, vervet monkey, Sykes’ monkey, Kirk’s dik-dik, bush pig, common duiker, reedbuck, rock hyrax, bushbaby, tree and ground squirrel, aardvark, porcupine, python and monitor lizard.

However, what fascinated me most is… drum-rolls… that Ol Donyo Sabuk is made of metamorphosed volcanic lava, which means that it is a lump of lava which has been changing shape or morphing over time into what it is today because of certain elements such as weather and climate. This lava also plays a major role in how the Fourteen Falls were formed.

What I’m curious about however, is whether the mountain itself is volcanic? Where did the lava originate from? And if it is volcanic, will it erupt again?thinking-face

 

Travel: Africa Dream Destinations

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Rusinga Island, Homa Bay County

I would be lying if I said that I like travelling. I LOVE LOVE travelling! I really enjoy travelling which is interesting because I also enjoy staying indoors. Hmm…even I don’t understand how that works. Anyhoo, today I share a few of my dream travel destinations in Africa. In no particular order:

  1.  A boat ride on Lac Rose (Senegal)
    Lac Rose is a direct transaltion from Pink Lake. It gets it’s pink colour from Dunaliella salina which is a type of algae. The lake also has very high salt content which makes floating easier.
  2. A game drive on Ngorongoro Crater (Tanzania)
    The world’s largest inactive and intact caldera. Rich in biodiversity.

  3. Ruwenzori Mountains and Virunga Mountains (Uganda/ Rwanda/ Congo)
    Perhaps attend a gorilla naming ceremony (Kwita Izina) in Rwanda or dare to see the boiling lava lake on Nyiragongo volcano in the DRC. 
  4. Hike or Drive across the Namib Desert  to the Atlantic Ocean (Namibia)
    What fascinates me about the Namib Desert is it’s proximity to the ocean. I can only imagine the feeling you get when you climb up a dune and are surprised by the sound of waves lapping on the beach and the sight of water. 
  5. Drive on the Garden Route (South Africa)
    This route stretches from the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape. It is very scenic with lots of biodiversity. Imagine the sunrises and sunsets…:)…sigh… 
  6. Stay with a local in Chefchaouen (Morocco)
    In this city, there are quaint blue houses that are nestled in the Rif Mountain. Maybe hike up the mountain and enjoy the views, peace and serenity.

  7. Bungee jump… hmm… no… just see the Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe/ Zambia)
    The falls simply look majestic. 
  8. Hike up Mulanje Massif (Malawi)
    Simply because I have never seen a monadnock (an isolated hill).

  9.  Quirimbas Archipelago (Mozambique)
    The last time I tried snorkelling I almost drowned when I realised how big the coral I was looking at was. This time round I would be more psychologically prepared to do even more daring water activities like diving. This would be my attempt to redeem my reputation with the ocean.

  10. Fishing in Lake Turkana (Kenya)
    Lake Turkana is also known as the Jade Sea because of the turquoise colour it has when algae rises to the surface in calm weather.  The Turkana call the lake Anam Ka’alakol which means, ‘the sea of many fish’. It also is the world’s largest permanent desert lake.

Not another conference

Conferences, workshops and trainings are a great way of  advertising, meeting new people, gaining new information and insight on various topics. They are an even greater method of promoting tourism, because a majority of the time these activities are out of town.

In my world, we have had and have myriads of conferences, workshops, trainings and different kinds of fora that deal with issues to do with sustainability, environment, climate change, wetlands, renewable energy, biodiversity, water… the list goes on and on. I have attended a few of these and though a majority of the time I am working, I mostly enjoy them.

However, a trend I’ve noticed over time, is that there are some people who attend literally every training being organised. One of my former colleagues calls them, ‘serial conference attendants’. How effective are these events to the ‘attendants’ and the organisations that they represent?

Albert Einstein, one of my most favourite people, once said, ‘The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing’.

So here goes my questioning:

i. At the end of every conference, training or workshop there are action points. Is there any follow up structure to find out whether the participants made use of the knowledge obtained? Where is the proof of action that has taken place on the ground as a result of the various events?

ii. In an era of 4G internet, webinars and online courses, why must we meet physically so frequently to discuss issues that have previously been discussed… then come up with solutions that had once been suggested but never implemented?

iii. Instead of all the expenses (per diem, flights, accomodation) associated with such meetings, why can’t these funds go towards active action like investing in innovative sustainable solutions such as large scale use of biogas or something? Has anyone done a cost benefit analysis of conferences, workshops and trainings?

thinking-face
Hmmm…