GeoCarta Has Moved

Feb 23, 2007

GIS Maps Clean Water in Africa

Scientists, working with volunteers, at Earthwatch have compiled a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) database of water availability and water quality in Kenya’s Samburu region.

The new GIS database maps water sources, quality, seasonal variability, as well as habitat quality for wildlife and livestock. These maps provide the latest information on water resources, and will be shared with local communities to inform management plans for settlement, grazing, and conservation lands.

The map may also help with public health issues, an important feature in a land where 80% of the diseases diagnosed are waterborne. “If we know a patient comes from a community where the database shows the water is high in amoebas, we know that the patient has a higher chance for that,” said Philip Leitore, a coordinator at Wamba Mission Hospital, which has a partnership with the Earthwatch's Samburu Field Center. Last year the lab at Wamba Mission Hospital detected cholera in a water sample by Earthwatch-supported scientists, prevented a public epidemic that could have affected many in the Samburu population.

The GIS database also shows how wet and dry seasons affect water quality, helping to warn people when and where outbreaks might occur. “We can share data in a context that communities will understand,” said Fred Atieno, a GIS expert. Layers of information can be added to the GIS maps that show the region’s roads, villages, markets, schools, and other features familiar to local communities. Different layers show water source locations and quality, seasonal rivers, and where there is good grazing land or scrubland.