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November 28, 2023
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Boreholes; the solution to Kenya water crisis

Drill Rig

Boreholes are necessary in areas where a steady supply of clean water is unavailable. A Borehole is drilled for many uses including
industrial, irrigation and domestic consumption.
Most Kenyan developers have opted for ground
water exploitation to attract tenants or buyers to
their property due to unreliable or even non-existent supply of water by local authorities.
Although borehole drilling is seen by some as
complex and expensive, players in the sector paint
a different picture. The entire process including
surveys, actual drilling and installation of pump may
cost anything from Ksh 1.2 m to 3 million. Factors
affecting cost include physical distance from where
the drilling company is located, their pricing policies, geological characteristics of the site, extent
of the hole and pump used. There are also several
licensing requirements that cost money.
The process of drilling a borehole begins with a
hydrogeological survey. This survey is carried out
to determine such factors as groundwater levels
and hydraulic characteristics. It should be done by
a qualified and registered geologist.
Once the geologist is satisfied with the ground water
potential, authorization to proceed is obtained from
the Water Resource Management Authority (WRMA).
This is followed by an Environmental Impact
Assessment (EIA). If the National Environmental
Management Authority (NEMA) is satisfied that the
proposed drilling will not have undesirable impact on the immediate environment, the organization
then issues a licence. The drilling may then commence although in some cases one may require a
no-objection letter from the local water services
Mobilization of equipment then follows and the
actual drilling gets underway.

Steps in Drilling
Generally, the following steps are followed. They
may however differ slightly from service provider
to service provider. The client may also influence
some elements

Drilling of 11”until loose top formation and installing 9” temporary casing, then drilling 8” up to recommended depth.
Casing: Installation of 6” casing pipe – Class – B (
4.5mm thickness ) up to bottom. Generally ratio of
plain casing and screen casing is 70:30 but depends
on the hole drilled.
Gravel Pack: Inserting 2-4mm natural gravel outside
the casing and inside the open hole for artificial
Development: This is done by air jetting until clean
water emerges. Generally, this can take up to 3 hours
but may vary with the hole.
Well head Slab: This is done using cement, sand and
gravel in proper ratios to prevent contamination of
the hole.
Capping: A cap is fitted over the hole until installation of pump.

Test pumping: This is done to measure the exact yield
of the borehole. The water needs to be pumped out
continuously for 24 hours. It is then possible to tell
the yield of the well, rest level and pumping water
level. This is important in determining the size of
pump to be installed. On the basis of test pump
report, one can decide the pump installation depth,
size of pump, motor, delivery pipe, cable, control
panel, water meter and other sundries.
Water chemical and bacteriological analysis is then
done by government chemist to assess if the water is
suitable for domestic/industrial use or not.
Completion Report: A completion report is then filed
with WRMA and a copy availed to the client.

Service Providers
Apex Boreholes & Engineering Company
Apex Borehole & Engineering Company is one of
the companies involved in borehole business. The
Nairobi-based company that operates not only in
Kenya but also the larger East Africa region undertakes hydrological surveys, Environmental Impact
Assessment (EIA), borehole drilling and equipping
(installation of pumps).
The company is well equipped and staffed to carry
out these services. It boasts four rigs, three pump
testing units, five terameters for survey, four engineers, five geologists and over 10 support staff.
Technical Manager Harrison Mackenzie dispels the
misconception that borehole drilling is an expensive
undertaking for the client. He reckons that it really depends on the purpose of the borehole. “If it’s water
for irrigation, that is an income generating business; if it’s real estate, that is a multi-million shilling
investment”, he says. He adds that the average cost
of a borehole (Ksh 2 million) is reasonable.

Davis & Shirtliff
The Davis & Shirtliff Group is the leading supplier of
water related equipment in the East African region.
Founded in 1946, business activities are focused on six
principal product sectors – Water Pumps, Boreholes,
Swimming Pools, Water Treatment, Generators and
Solar Equipment. The group is Kenyan based and
operates through a network of Kenyan branches as
well as regional subsidiaries in Uganda, Tanzania,
Zambia, Rwanda, South Sudan and a partnership
in Ethiopia.
Based in Nairobi, the company stocks a comprehensive range of borehole equipment sourced from
leading manufacturers around the world.

Majitec Limited
Majitec offers borehole equipment and service. It
is not engaged in actual drilling. Products supplied
include a wide range of pumps including surface
pumps, dewatering pumps, sewage pumps, irrigation and borehole pumps. Others are motors and electrical switch gears, pressure vessels and break
tanks, horse reel pump sets as well as firefighting
and sprinkler sets. The company also stocks pressure switches and gauges, uPVC submersible ipes,
submersible cables, switch and control gears and
From its offices and workshop at G.F. Corvin premises in Ruaraka Nairobi, the company is able to
support its clients countrywide. Majitec’s clients
include plumbers, construction sites, building services, agricultural irrigation and sewage treatment
among others.
The company boasts a well trained service team to
offer technical support and support to its clients
before and after sales.

Aquadeep Drilling Solutions Limited
Aquadeep Drilling Solutions Limited not only
designs and constructs boreholes but also offers a
complete range of ancillary services like Borehole
refurbishment or Decommissioning, Borehole
Surveying, Pump & Control Systems and their
supply, Installation and Management Contract. The
Nairobi-based company is sufficiently equipped
both in terms of physical equipment and human
resources Geofarthom Drilling Company Limited
Geofarthom is a Kenyan company that undertakes
borehole drilling, equipment supply, dams and
piping works. It serves a wide range of customers
including parastatals, churches, institutions and
individuals among others.
The company operates four drilling rigs with capability to drill up to 380 metres.

Kisima Drilling (EA) Ltd
Kisima Drilling (EA) Ltd provides borehole drilling
and associated services in the whole of Kenya with
the exception of North Eastern and Coastal regions.
Their clients range from individual to organizations.
The company owns three drilling rigs and has a
human capital of 40. According to P.R. Patel who is
a director, the main challenges facing his company
are delays in obtaining approval from government
agencies as well as unhealthy competition.

PRD Rigs Kenya Limited                                                               
PRD Rigs Kenya Limited is a leading manufacturer of drilling and exploration rigs. The company
serves water well contractors, mining companies,
geotechnical and water services companies across
East Africa. PRD Rigs has a fully equipped assembly section and workshops manned by qualified technical personnel.

Challenges faced by players and consumers
According to Mr Philip Kisia who is the Operations
Manager at PRD Rigs, the statutory regulations in
place often act as a hindrance to the development of
ground water by making the process unaffordable.
Other impediments include poor terrain to drilling
sites, political instability, animosity among communities and collapse of formation at sites. Machinery
may also break down and tools may come loose in
boreholes resulting in extended downtime.
Mr Khisa also cites lack of expertise among drilling operators, competition from “briefcase” businesses, dry well that lead to loss of payments and
high taxation by County Governments which is considered double taxation. He also feels operators are
inconvenienced by law enforcement on the roads
and weighbridges.
Dr Joseph Mugwe, Managing Director, Geofarthom
Drilling Company also acknowledges these challenges and adds that in some cases one may encounter dishonest clients who drag the drilling company
through unnecessary litigation. Unscrupulous
employees who connive to sell tools and fuel are an
added problem. “Players also experience unpredictable increases in direct costs”, he says, adding that
the cost of equipment and spares is normally quite

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