Oxford. 21 February 2007. Scientists and volunteers from Earthwatch, the environmental charity, have developed a comprehensive new Geographic Information Systems (GIS) database that will help local communities in the Samburu region of Kenya to manage their water supply and avert public health crises.
Compiled over three years, the maps detail permanent and temporary water sources, including springs, rivers, pools and dams. They also include information about water quality and seasonal variability. This important outcome is consistent with Goal 7 of the Millennium Development Goals, which includes ensuring sustainable access to improved water sources.
"In this semi-arid region where people and wildlife compete for natural resources, the new GIS database has the potential to greatly improve access to clean drinking water," says Nat Spring, Research and Education Manager for Earthwatch (Europe).
Fred Atieno, Earthwatch scientist from the Samburu Field Centre, continues, "We will ensure that local people understand this information by adding the region's roads, villages, markets, schools, and other familiar features. Different layers in the database show water source locations and quality, seasonal rivers, and where there is good grazing land or scrubland."
By providing information about water quality, the maps will also help with public health issues, in a community where 80 per cent of diagnosed diseases are waterborne.
"I hope that this information will help people, including wildlife herders who travel with their livestock, to find and choose cleaner water sources," says Philip Leitore, from Wamba Mission Hospital in Samburu. "Also, if we know that a patient comes from a village where the water is contaminated, we can treat them accordingly."
In 2006, Wamba Mission Hospital detected cholera in a water sample collected by Earthwatch teams; this prevented a public epidemic that could have affected many people in the Samburu area. The GIS database also shows how wet and dry seasons affect water quality, helping to warn people when and where outbreaks might occur.
Earthwatch is now working closely with the Northern Rangeland Trust, Namunya Wildlife Conservation Trust, Kalama Community Conservancy and West Gate Conservancy to disseminate the information among a community where most information is shared by word of mouth.
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Find out more about the Earthwatch Samburu research project
For press information, images and interviews please contact Zoë Gamble, PR Manager, Earthwatch. + 44 (0) 1865 318852 / 07725690469 / email@example.com.