Deadly health risk to water supplies

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 12 November 2010

The breakdown of ageing sewage treatment works and the discharge of bacteria into rivers and streams pose a deadly health risk to water supplies, the African Christian Democratic Party warns.

Collecting water form a cholera infected river

“Questions have rightly been asked as to whether municipal water is still acceptable for human consumption, particularly in rural areas,” ACDP MP Steve Swart said in a statement.

Outdated infrastructure and problems in retaining skilled staff had contributed to unacceptably high levels of pollution in many rivers and dams around the country.

He noted that a breakdown in the state of water supplies in South Africa’s northern neighbour, Zimbabwe, had caused an outbreak of cholera.

“If we do not attend to this creeping water crisis, we will face very serious public health issues arising from water-borne diseases,” Swart said.

With about 100,000 reported cases and more than 4000 deaths, Zimbabwe’s recent cholera epidemic – which started in 2008 – proved one of Africa’s most deadly in almost two decades.

Swart called on government to embark on public water awareness campaigns, similar to those addressing power shortages.

“The maintenance and refurbishment of bulk water infrastructure and supplies, as well as the widespread pollution of our rivers and dams, must be attended to urgently,” he said.

The department of water affairs was not immediately available for comment.

Earlier this week, it was reported that South Africa’s largest water utility, Rand Water, blamed overloaded sewage works, together with acid mine drainage and poor water catchment management, for the rapidly deteriorating quality of the country’s raw water supplies.

According to the department of water affairs’ so-called Green Drop report, issued earlier this year, only seven percent of the country’s sewage treatment plants operate at an acceptable standard.

Source: Times Live

Adopt-a-River launches in Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 03 September 2010

Millions of South Africans, especially those that are without piped water, are directly dependent on the rivers for their livelihoods.  Rivers get polluted easily, partly because there is lack of education on the side of communities and business on the importance of keeping them healthy.

Luvuvhu River is being polluted by wastes such as heavy metals, pesticides, chemical compounds from fertilisers, wastewater effluents and other solid waste.

Our river systems are connected naturally and artificially, through interbasin transfer schemes, making the transportation of pollutants from one catchment area to another possible.

Thankfully the Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Rejoice Mabudafhasi, has radically embarked on a campaign during the month of August, as part of women’s empowerment, to create awareness among South Africans of the need to care for our scarce water resources. This campaign promotes active participation of communities, especially women and youth in the Departmental programmes to ensure sustainability.

The Deputy Minister visited the Luvuvhu River in the Limpopo Region on 4 August 2010, which is polluted by wastes such as heavy metals, pesticides, chemical compounds from fertilisers, wastewater effluents and other solid waste.  Water quality reports show that the Luvuvhu River and its tributaries already indicate high levels of faecal pollution and steady increases in phosphate and nitrates.

“Let us keep our rivers clean and stop the pollution that kills our fish and contaminates our water resources. When you educate a woman you educate the nation” said the Deputy Minister in her speech delivered in Limpopo. Continue reading

10 die from rat disease

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 23 August 2010

Malaysia has closed parks and warned the public about swimming and dumping trash in rivers after up to 10 people died from a disease spread by rats.

Leptospirosis - Rats are the main culprits

The latest reported death from the bacterial disease leptospirosis was on Saturday. The 17-year-old boy in northern Kedah state had swam in a river and had a picnic with friends at a recreational park last month, the New Straits Times and The Star reported.

Several parks throughout the country have been closed since the first deaths were reported last month.

Some deaths were believed to have been caused by a separate waterborne disease, and a Health Ministry official could not immediately say how many were caused by leptospirosis.

The Health Ministry’s website warns people not to swim in public rivers when it rains and to avoid taking a dip if they have cuts on their body, which makes an infection more likely.

Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai was quoted by the Times on Monday as saying his ministry would distribute leaflets and posters to raise awareness of the disease.

Leptospirosis is caused by exposure to water contaminated with urine of infected animals and absorbed through the skin.

Rats are the main carriers, and the ministry’s campaign urges people not to dump rubbish near water sources that could attract rats, he said.

Cases of the disease have been increasing in Malaysia.

It killed 62 people last year, up from 20 in 2004. In the same period, the number of infections rose more than fivefold to more than 1 400 cases, up from 263.

Symptoms are severe muscle pain, fever, vomiting and headache, and leptospirosis is curable if the person is treated within a week.

– AP

SA’s water: A looming apocalypse?

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 07 May 2010

South Africa faces a far more disruptive threat than Eskom power failures, one that is potentially calamitous and may even be seen by religiously-minded citizens as the coming of the biblically predicted apocalypse.

It will be characterised by the failure of wastewater purification systems, the pollution of rivers and dams and even the poisoning of waters in reservoirs or dams serving as reservoirs if the purification process is inadequate at that level.

The first signs of the disaster are already visible in remote rural areas where the municipalities – which are responsible for wastewater purification – are too poor to attract appropriately qualified personnel to operate purification systems and ensure that they are properly maintained.

Though water and environment affairs minister Buyelwa Sonjica denies that there is a water crisis at present, she implicitly admits that one is inevitable unless strenuous action is taken to prevent it when she warns that South Africa will have to spend R23-billion to prevent the collapse of the wastewater treatment system.

An excellent synopsis of the main dimensions of the impending crisis if appropriate and urgent measures are not taken is contained in a publication by the Centre for Development and Enterprise and Business Leadership SA.

The publication summarised the contents of a round table discussion by representatives of government, business and academia on the genesis of the problem and the threatened crisis.

The scene-setting introduction makes two broad points: Continue reading

Adopt a River

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 21 March 2010

River pollution remains one of the biggest challenges in South African water resources. The Department of Water Affairs, in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Water Research Commission (WRC), co-hosted an event under the theme Adopt-a-River, which is part of the River Health Programme; a nation-wide monitoring initiative for assessing the health of rivers in the country that was started in 1994.

Plankenburg River

The Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Rejoice Mabudafhasi, launched the Adopt-a-River Programme at the Spier Conference Centre, next to the Eerste River, which is fed by two tributaries, Kuilsriver and Plankenberg, both highly polluted by sewage from informal settlements, industries and agricultural practices along its banks.

The objective of the Adopt-a-River Programme is to create awareness among South Africans to care for our scarce water resources and to actively participate in their protection and management.

The launch was part of the National Water Week 2010 events, and was combined with the launch of a 500m march to the banks of the Eerste River under the theme Walk for Water’; a communication campaign to raise awareness of conservation and protection of our scarce water resources.

After taking samples from the Eerste River, the Deputy Minister and the Executive mayor, Nompumelelo Hani demonstrated to the participants the use of the MiniSASS (South African Scoring System); a scientific tool used to monitor the health of a river, to measure the general quality of the water and to score the quality of that river’s water.

The event ended with a commitment made by the Winelands District Municipality’s Executive Mayor, Nompumelelo Hani to adopt the Eerste River and set an example for other neighbouring rivers. ”If the councillors do not keep their promises they can be taken to court ”says the Deputy Minister, Rejoice Mabudafhasi.

– Bonani Madikizela [edited by Saving Water SA]

Source: Water Research Commission