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So that’s where all the water went! Delaware-size underground water reservoir discovered in drought-stricken Kenya.

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A Kenyan woman drinks water from the newly discovered reservoir

Residents watch as water is pumped from the newly discovered reservoirScientists using technology for discovering oil have found a vast underground water reservoir in one of Kenya’s driest regions that they say could allow the drought-stricken country to meet its water needs for at least the next 70 years. The massive water reservoir, located 1,082 feet underground, was found in the desert of Kenya’s Turkana region. Named the Lotikipi Basin Aquifer, they have estimated it contains more than 200 billion cubic meters of fresh water – about the side of Rhode Island – nearly nine times Kenya’s current reserves. Scientists estimate that the reservoir naturally replenishes itself with rainfall at a rate of 3.4 billion cubic meters per year and say that it is possible that, along with water run-off from surrounding hills and plains that replenish the aquifer, the newly discovered resources could fulfill the country’s water demands indefinitely.

According to The Verge:

“The project was spearheaded by Alain Gachet, president and CEO of Radar Technologies International (RTI), a France-based natural resources exploration firm. Over the course of six months, Gachet and his team of researchers used RTI’s WATEX mapping system to survey the northern county of Turkana, one of Kenya’s driest and poorest regions.”

A 2011 drought across East Africa triggered a severe food crisis that affected an estimated 9.5 million people in the region, leaving many dead or malnourished. In some parts of Turkana, malnourishment rates are estimated at 37 percent. A water drill team member described residents’ emotional reaction to the discovery.

“They were dancing around, it was very, very emotional. They were so happy to see water springing from the ground.”

Scientists believe the abundance of water could spawn an entirely new agriculture industry in the area while residents fear foreign companies may try to swoop in to reap the benefits.  Unfortunately, the land that lies above the reservoir is among the most hostile in Kenya.

Sources: The Verge, Christian Science Monitor, The Telegraph