A community-based rainwater monitoring and treatment programme in Grahamstown, South Africa.





Roman Tandlich(1), Catherine D. Luyt(1), and Nosiphiwe P. Ngqwala(1)  

(1) Environmental Health and Biotechnology Research Group, Division of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Faculty of Pharmacy, Rhodes University, P.O. Box 94, Grahamstown 

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Abstract — South Africa is a water scarce country and its potable water supple suffers from problems such as pipe breaks and interruption of supply. This forces a large part of the population use rainwater for domestic consumption. In this climate, the current paper investigated the design of information tools about the source of rainwater contamination and the use of the modified hydrogen-sulphide test kit to detect the faecal contamination of rainwater. An information pamphlet was designed on the contamination sources of rainwater and the modified test kit was successfully used by the NGO volunteers to detect faecal contamination. The modified hydrogen-sulphide test kit and a combination of the E. coli enumerations correctly identified microbial water quality problems. These were then remedied using a collaboration between the authors and the community volunteers. The rate of correspondence between the m-TEC E. coli enumeration and the hydrogen-sulphide test kit was 71 %.   

    Key-Words—the hydrogen-sulphide test kit, bleach addition, m-TEC agar, E. coli, community-based programme.  




recipitation data indicate that South Africa is a water scarce country [1], [2]. Only 73.9 % of the population in rural areas, such as the Eastern Cape Province, had access to piped water inside the households in 2009 [3]. Pipe breaks and insufficient maintenance are common; and increase the risk of microbial contamination of the potable water distribution systems [4], [5]. In 2011, it was reported that up to 63.4 % of the water supply interruptions in the Eastern Cape were longer than 15 days in duration [6]. The Makana Local Municipality where Rhodes University is located ranked 7th in potable water service delivery in the Eastern Cape province with very low frequency of compliance monitoring [7]. This increases the dissatisfaction of inhabitants of the province with the potable water quality [8], [9]. It also forces the citizens to turn to alternative water resources such as rainwater to meet their drinking water needs.

Rainwater has been used as the primary potable water source in 55000 homes in South Africa [9]. Literature data have shown that the concentration of indicator microorganisms in rainwater often exceed regulatory limits for human consumption [10]. Therefore microbial quality of rainwater must be monitored regularly [11], [12]. If microbial contamination is detected then rainwater should be subjected to minimum treatment, such addition of bleach, before human consumption [13]. Awareness about minimum treatment and regular monitoring of microbial quality of rainwater can be accomplished, even in resource-limited environments, using a community microbial water quality monitoring programme. In this article, we report on the results from the pilot phase of this type of programme as run in the Grahamstown area of the Makana Local Municipality between March and June 2013.




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