Water Resource Management at the Mpala Conservancy (Laikipia District, Kenya)

Client Organization: 
Mpala Wildlife Foundation
Project Location : 
Laikipia District, Kenya
Summary of Project Idea: 

The Mpala Conservancy, located in Kenya's arid Rift Valley, faces the pressure of water scarcity and the challenge of using that resource sustainably.  This team focused on assessing the availability of water sources, evaluating water quality and quantifying demand for water resources at Mpala.  Water sources accounted for included the Ewaso Ng'iro river, an aquifer, rainwater harvesting, and weirs capturing surface run-off.  Water quality analysis was conducted during both the rainy and dry seasons at the sources, storage tanks, and main points of use.  Water quality parameters tested for included: fecal/total coliforms, nitrates, phosphates, hardness, total suspended solids, total dissolved solids, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen.  Demand was quantitatively measured by metering flow at 26 strategic locations throughout the property.  Daily bed-night records allowed for demand to be normalized per capita.  Appropriate filtration and disinfection opportunities were investigated following the collection of quality and demand data necessary as design parameters.  Based upon thorough investigation and analysis of Mpala's water resources the team has developed recommendations for their client regarding future water use and management in light of predicted operating expansion and climate change.

Skills/Expertise Needed: 

Sustainable design, conservation biology, sustainable enterprise, water and energy engineering systems, environmental planning.  Civil engineering skills will be useful, as well as a design background.  Understanding electricity (one- and three-stage systems) is helpful, but not essential, as it can be learned during the process.

SEAS Program Areas: 
Conservation Ecology (Aquatic Sciences, Terrestrial Ecosystems, and Conservation Biology)
Environmental Policy and Planning
Behavior, Education, and Communication
Sustainable Systems
Professional Career Development Benefits: 

This is a great opportunity for a systems thinking approach to problem-solving, which is useful for any professional ambition.  There are several conferences about development in Africa, and the students will also find resources in other academic and professional realms where these types of efforts are and have been made.  So there will be plenty of knowledge to tap into.  This is also a great opportunity to learn the extent and limitations of renewable energy sources on a small scale, urban infrastructure, social dynamics and acceptance of new technologies and processes, developing world experience and economic and environmental analysis.

Funding Sources: 

The Phase 1 group the previous year received support from Rackham, a grant from the International Institute, and the Graham Institute.

Identify expected products/deliverables: 

A report explaining the needs of Mpala, the proposed solutions, and a cost benefit analysis.

Ann Arbor
State or Country: 
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Don Scavia
Contact e-mail: 
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • Steve Rippberger, MS, Sustainable Systems/ Behavior, Education and Communication
  • Alicia Ritzenthaler, MS, Environmental Policy and Planning/ Aquatic Sciences
  • Rachel Fletcher, MS, Conservation Biology/ Environmental Policy and Planning
  • Chelsea Ransom, MS/MSE, Sustainable Systems
Project Status: 
Past Project