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CSIR working closely with the community of Stinkwater in Hammanskraal to improve the quality of groundwater

Publication Date: 
Friday, September 27, 2019

The community of Stinkwater has no access to piped water distributions and rely on water delivered by the municipal trucks. Often, this is not enough. Le Roux explains that the community has found its own solution to accessing water through hand dug wells. This untreated water is then used by the community, exposing them to various health risks.

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Contact Person

David Mandaha

+12 841 3654/ 072 126 8910

dmandaha@csir.co.za

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is working with the community of Stinkwater in Hammanskraal to improve the quality of ground and surface water in the area.

The organisation shared some of its findings on the quality of groundwater at a media briefing held in Pretoria on Thursday, 26 September 2019. The three-year research project was aimed at investigating the health risks that untreated groundwater pose to the user community and to explore potential interventions.

“People need clean water to consume, irrigate, for livestock, etc. but water is a luxury many do not have access to,” said CSIR Senior Scientist and Laboratory Manager, Wouter le Roux.

The community of Stinkwater has no access to piped water distributions and rely on water delivered by the municipal trucks. Often, this is not enough. Le Roux explains that the community has found its own solution to accessing water through hand dug wells. This untreated water is then used by the community, exposing them to various health risks.

A total of 144 water samples were collected over a two-year period over the wet and dry seasons, and the majority of samples were taken from hand-dug wells. The study found that fluoride exceeded the drinking water standard in 9% of samples [max 3.6 mg/L] and nitrate exceeded the drinking water standard in 87% of samples [Avg 23.1 mg/L]. Escherichia coli bacteria, which is used as an indicator of faecal pollution was also detected in the majority of samples.

Le Roux said the CSIR was looking at ways to use nano-engineered clays and plants to remove nitrate from the water, rendering it safer for consumption.

He said the South African National Standard specifies that drinking water should not contain more than 11 mg/L nitrate (measured as N03-N).

“Nitrate can occur naturally in surface and groundwater at a level that does not generally cause health problems. Groundwater can be contaminated with nitrate that comes from fertilizers, septic systems, animal feedlots, industrial waste, and food processing waste,” said Le Roux.

In this study, the average nitrate concentration was found to be 23.1 mg/L. Comparing this to water resources elsewhere in the world, in the USA 6-21% of wells exceed 10 mg/L nitrate (as N03-N), in European groundwater was found to be 4 mg/L (1992 -2012), in India (rural areas) the average nitrate levels exceed 10 mg/L in drinking water and 50% of public-supply wells had nitrate at levels above the 10mg/L safe level (some even exceeded 100 mg/L) in the Gaza strip in Palestine. Most researchers agree that water containing nitrate at concentrations that is above the 10 mg/L safe level is not safe for human consumption, because there is a risk of adverse health effects like methaemoglobinaemia. Drinking water should also not contain any E. coli bacteria, as this suggests that there is a risk of diarrheal diseases.

Issued by:
David Mandaha: CSIR Media Relations Manager
Tel: 012 841 3654
Mobile: 072 126 8910
Email: dmandaha@csir.co.za

About the CSIR:

The CSIR is one of the leading scientific and technology research, development and implementation organisations in Africa. Constituted by an Act of Parliament in 1945 as a science council, the CSIR undertakes directed and multidisciplinary research, technological innovation, as well as industrial and scientific development to improve the quality of life of all South Africans. For more info visit www.csir.co.za

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