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 provider.
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 filtration.
- 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.
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 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 accessories.
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 high.