Varsity acquires sedimentation survey equipment

JKUAT has received state of the art equipment for assessing reservoir sedimentation. The equipment was purchased with seed money from United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for collaborative research between the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) through a specific cooperative agreement.

This was disclosed at a brief ceremony held at the university presided over by the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Research, Production and Extension, Prof. Kahangi on behalf of the Vice Chancellor and attended by staff and students from the College of Engineering and Technology. The ceremony was held at the Department of Biomechanical & Environmental Engineering (BEED) grounds.

The DVC acknowledged the crucial role the equipment will play in addressing current problems in the water and energy sectors due to sedimentation. She challenged the JKUAT researchers to move with speed and forge collaborations with stakeholders in these sectors so as to ensure full utilization of the equipment and quick uptake of research findings.

Prof. Esther Kahangi, DVC Research Production and Extension (in dark glasses) at the launch of the Reservour Sedimentation Survey System

In her remarks, the Director, Water Resources Research Center, Prof. Mati, acknowledged that the Center was ready to support the project and that the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company Ltd, had agreed to partner with the team of scientists in this study.

The equipment is comprised of multi-frequency acoustic profiling system (APS) which can be used to estimate reservoir water storage capacity and long-term average annual sedimentation rates. This method has been tested with satisfactory results in previous studies.

Dr. Daniel Moriasi and other scientists from USDA-ARS have utilized long-term annual average reservoir sedimentation rates as a surrogate for measured continuous long-term sediment data to calibrate the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model with satisfactory results. From their study, they concluded that APS method is a potential cost-effective method to obtain sedimentation rates data to improve water quality simulations in ungauged watersheds. A well calibrated model can improve the utility for assessing management and policy alternatives for government ministries, municipalities and NGOs.

The state of-the-art Reservour Sedimentation Survey System

A pilot project which will apply this method is scheduled to be carried out at the Ruiru Reservoir and its watershed, by consortium of scientists from USA and JKUAT. The objective of the pilot study is to conduct proof of the concept study, which utilizes the APS and SWAT to assess the current reservoir sedimentation status.

The modeling effort will also determine the conservation practices that will minimize watershed erosion hence reservoir sedimentation. The long-term goal of these collaborative efforts will be to establish a regional or continental center for watershed and reservoir assessment to train and build capacity on the use these technologies.

The JKUAT research team will be led by Prof. John Gathenya and Mr. Joseph Sang, both staff members at BEED. Mr. Sang explained that the equipment, which is a rare technological solution in this part of the world, could play a very critical role in the country’s development because the survey system is able to assess the sedimentation rate and provide information on the current status of the reservoir and erosion upstream. “Rate of sediment load in most reservoirs is seldom monitored in the country and this survey methodology could be an alternative source of such information,” Mr. Sang observed.

This latest collaborative initiative is another milestone in JKUAT’s endeavor to be a University of global excellence in Training, Research and Innovation for development. The Chairman of the Department of Biomechanical and Environmental Engineering thanked the university management, USAID, and USDA-ARS for their support in acquiring the equipment. He acknowledged efforts by Dr. Daniel Moriasi, a USDA-ARS research hydrologist, for his support to the pilot project.

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