Egerton University is located in Njoro, Kenya and has been a selected site since 2001.

Egerton University, Njoro, Kenya

Research Area:

Environmental Health

Njoro, where Egerton University is located, is part of Nakuru district, which supports an estimated population of 1.5 million people.  This region of Kenya receives less than 100 cm of rainfall per year. Therefore, it is classified as Semi Arid Land (SAL). There are few rivers and some of them dry up during severe drought. The few lakes that are in Njoro and surrounding areas are not freshwater lakes.  Consequently, groundwater in the form of wells and boreholes constitute the main source of drinking water. The university operates twelve boreholes. Owing to the volcanic nature of the rock formation of the area, the ground water is high in salt content. Of particular concern in this regard is the fluoride content, which is known to be as high as 12.0 parts per million. Fluoride concentration levels higher than 1.5 ppm in drinking water are undesirable as they cause dental and skeletal fluorosis. This is a serious health issue in Njoro. Apart from the fluoride problem, contaminants stemming from agricultural activities, grazing, and cottage industries contribute to the degradation of the boreholes and wells.

Source water Delineation Studies

water supply source

Water supply source

Egerton University has established a source water assessment and protection program to provide essential technical data and information on water safety. The purpose of the program is to provide a delineation of the water sources, identifying their locations and characteristics, as well as identifying all pertinent factors that may bear on the quantity and quality of the water. Such information includes the size of the community that is served by the source, land use practices and related activities, the surroundings of the sources, and potential threats. GIS is used in collecting, storing, manipulating, and mapping spatial information as well as chemical and biological content. Such information is essential in monitoring the quality of the source and how that quality is mitigated temporally and spatially.

Training Protocol in Source Water Delineation

Using hand held GPS systems, spatial data are collected for the identification of the locations of the sources, size of the sources, number of inhabitants they supports; potential contaminants (septic tanks, latrines, animal feeds, farmland) and their distances from the sources; industrial facilities; land use practices(agriculture, grazing); and other commercial activities.

Each delineated source is sampled and analyzed for chemical and microbiological content, including nutrients, heavy metals, pesticides, phosphates, fluoride, and fecal coliform. Focus is placed on fluoride content. A GIS database and GIS maps of spatial data overlaid with chemical/biological data are developed. These maps will be useful in locating sources, monitoring changes within those sources, modeling the movement and dispersion of pollutants, and serve as a guide in developing new sources.

Participants of the source water delineation program learn a number of skills and concepts that are germane to water quality research. For example, such measurements demand the capacity to address key questions such as: (1) what is to be monitored; (2) for what purpose; (3) who will do the monitoring; (4) how often should it be done; (5) how will the results be reported or shared; (6) what type of linkages can be drawn between measured data and source water characteristics and community health? They also learn how to integrate chemical with spatial measurement data.

The defluoridation program has been of particular interest to the students who appreciate the fact that materials as mundane as animal bone can have a tremendously significant role in solving a health/environmental problem. Participants will engage in an expanded water delineation activity that links efforts of the local community and Egerton University as described later below.

Water Defluoridation Research

The ground water sources of Njoro are very high in fluoride, making dental and skeletal fluorosis a serious health problem in the area. A water defluoridation technology based on filtration with animal bone char has been developed by the Chemistry Department at Egerton to address this problem. The aim is to make this technology available to the community to provide fluoride-free water. Involvement in this project will provide the participants exposure to and experience with the design and characterization  of bioreactors for use in water purification.

Service Learning: The Njoro Community Water Project (NCWP)

The residents of Njoro initiated the Njoro Community Water Project (NCWP) after experiencing water shortage for many years. The goal was to secure a safe and sustainable water supply system for a population of about 15,000. Management of the program required: Choice of appropriate technology; ability to pay for the water; capacity to operate and maintain the water supply system; involvement of women in management; ability and willingness to form a community water supply group; poverty alleviation and sanitation issues. The NCWP authority has under its jurisdiction eight communal water points in different locations where residents collect water at a small charge. It is also supplying water to individual consumers through individual connections. A Management Committee, composed of eleven members - six of whom are women - has been formed to manage the daily operations of the scheme. Since the inception of NCWP, Njoro residents have had continuous water supply for domestic use and the standard of living has improved.

The NCWP scheme provides invaluable opportunities for Service-Learning. MHIRT participants will collaborate with NCWP management to provide three types of service: (1) technical assistance to evaluate existing water sources for quality and quantity, (2) quality assessment and monitoring using standard laboratory facilities; and (3) water filtration to remove fluoride.