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Flooding may cause drinking water contamination

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 26 January 2011

Recent widespread flooding may increase the risk for outbreaks associated with the contamination of drinking water sources, warns the Water Research Commission (WRC). However, the risk of outbreaks can be minimized if the risk is well recognized and disaster-response addresses the provision of clean water as a priority.

The obvious impact of the floods is damage to crops, irrigation equipment and farming infrastructure. Photo: Bongiwe Mchunu

Mr Jay Bhagwan, Director at the WRC, says “There is an increased risk of infection with water-borne diseases contracted through direct contact with polluted waters, such as wound infections, dermatitis, conjunctivitis, and ear, nose and throat infections”.

Floods may indirectly lead to an increase in vector-borne diseases through the expansion in the number and range of vector habitats. Standing water resulting from heavy rainfall or overflow of rivers can act as breeding sites for mosquitoes, and therefore enhance the potential for exposure of the disaster-affected population and emergency workers to infections.

Bhagwan further says “Flooding may initially flush out mosquito breeding, but it comes back when the waters recede. The lag time is usually around 6-8 weeks before the onset of a malaria epidemic”.

“Generally, floods contribute to the lessening or the dilution of pollutants provided there are no sewage and chemical spills. A bigger concern is the increase in the sediments, plants, trees, litter and other objects” Bhagwan adds. Continue reading Flooding may cause drinking water contamination