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Investigating poor water quality in African slums

Project ‘Groundwater 2030’ unearths the reality behind drinking water in East-African informal settlements.

A shallow well in Kisumu, Kenya

Kisumu, one of the largest cities in Kenya, has a booming population.

Most of this growth is concentrated within peri-urban slum districts which struggle with poor quality sanitation (predominantly due to home-dug pit latrines which can allow pathogens and chemicals to diffuse into nearby hand-dug drinking water wells), and disease.

In light of this, the Government of Kenya published ‘Kenya Vision 2030’, a development framework outlining key objectives including implementing solid waste management, strengthening physical and social infrastructure and improving water and sanitation facilities in slums.

University of Surrey academics are now using the Kenya Vision as the backbone to ‘Groundwater 2030: sustaining urban groundwater for the poor’, a project studying the changing quality of Kisumu’s groundwater and assessing its long-term impact on the health of its expanding population.

“We’re gathering this information so that, when we combine it with socio-economic data, we have a thorough picture of how the poor are suffering from contaminated water, compared to those from richer areas of Africa,” said Surrey’s project co-investigator, Dr Steve Pedley, who is working on the project alongside a consortium of key players from the University of Bristol, University of Southampton, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology and the Victoria Institute of Research on Environment and Development (both in Kenya).

“Once we know how deep the problem lies, we’ll be in a position to evaluate a range of water management schemes and hopefully improve people’s health and overall quality of life in the future.”

Groundwater 2030 is looking to help a range of agencies transform the lives of slum dwellers worldwide.

Discover Surrey’s Civil and Environmental Engineering programmes and read about student experiences of the subject.

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