Document Type


Journal/Book Title

PARIMA. Global Livestock Collaborative Research Support Program


University of California at Davis

Publication Date



Inadequate quantity of water is a common problem for pastoral people in East Africa. For the Rendille community of Kargi in northern Kenya, however, water quality has also been identified as a critical issue. Residents report that water-borne diseases commonly affect human health in dry seasons, and livestock may die soon after drinking water from some of the older, deep wells. We collected water samples from four key wells and one earthen dam to analyze physiochemical and bacteriological quality. Preliminary results indicated that the centrally located, oldest wells tested far below technical quality guidelines in several respects. Especially notable were the very high mineral content of the water and the presence of toxic bacteria (Salmonella spp., Escherichia coli). Low concentration of oxygen in the water from old wells—in combination with the presence of Salmonella –may promote production of potentially lethal gases like hydrogen sulphide. In contrast, water quality in younger wells and the earthen dam—all further from Kargi town—more commonly met technical guidelines overall, but evidence of bacteria from fecal contamination was still detected. As settled populations of pastoralists grow in the absence of infrastructure development, dangers of water contamination and water-borne human illness increase. Community-based interventions to better manage water quality are reviewed. A simple, low cost solution is proposed.