Characterization of Major Ion Chemistry and Hydro-Geochemical Processes in Mt. Elgon Trans-Boundary Aquifer and Their Impacts on Public Health

Kanoti JR, Olago D, Opiyo N, Nyamai C, Dindi E, Kuria Z. "Characterization of Major Ion Chemistry and Hydro-Geochemical Processes in Mt. Elgon Trans-Boundary Aquifer and Their Impacts on Public Health." Journal of Environment and Earth Science. 2019;9(4):38-45.


There is a gradual paradox shift from the utilization of surface water to groundwater in both urban and rural Kenya. This is because surface water is both diminishing in quantity due to climate variability and deteriorating in quality due to high levels of anthropogenic contamination. In the quest to attain the Sustainable Development Goal number 6 that aim at ensuring access to safe water by all by 2030, the Government of Kenya is encouraging the development of groundwater resources whose potential is enormous though it has not been quantified. The Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) supported this research on the shared Mt. Elgon trans-boundary aquifer between Kenya and Uganda aimed at understanding its dynamics. Mt. Elgon is a Tertiary age mountain that straddles the Kenya-Uganda border and has a trans-boundary aquifer. This study investigated the groundwater chemistry and its implication on water management and human health. Physico-chemical parameters of water that included electrical conductivity, pH, and temperature were measured in the field and the major cations and anions were measured at the Central Laboratories of the State Department for Water. Geological mapping and identification of sanitary risks were undertaken during the field work. The study revealed that the concentration of cations and anions in the groundwater varied spatially and temporally. Abundance of these ions were in the order Ca²⁺ > Na⁺ > Mg²⁺ > K⁺ for most samples and HCO₃⁻ > Cl⁻ > SO₄²⁻ >NO₃⁻. Interpretation of hydro-chemical data suggests that calcium carbonate dissolution, halite dissolution, Ca/Na ion exchange and Mg/Na ion exchange are the major processes that control the ground-water chemistry. Chemical results indicate further that the groundwater is suitable for domestic use but is threatened by both anthropogenic and geological factors. Extensive use of fertilizer and the destruction of the catchment area coupled with low permeability and rock-water interactions in the metamorphic rock terrains are the main threats to groundwater quality in the region. A few water points had water with some ionic composition exceeding WHO and the local KEBS maximum limits for drinking water. Such water pose a risk to human health.


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