Monday, 23 May, 2022
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SA tap water quality is declining, with DoWS warnings to boil drinking water

The government’s latest Blue Drop report reveals an alarming decline in water quality and management processes, with 23% of municipalities ranked at critical risk and the national Department of Water and Sanitation warning residents in some districts to boil their water first if they want to drink it.

Writing in Daily Maverick, Tony Carnie reports that while tap water in most major cities still appears to be safe to drink, the report nevertheless paints a picture of an overall decline in tap water safety procedures nationwide compared with previous similar assessments. The report is based on an audit of nearly 1,200 water supply systems nationwide between January and December 2020. It shows that only 40% of these systems complied with legal standards for microbiological water quality compliance and only 23% achieved chemical water quality compliance.

The microbiological tests included E. coli/faecal coliform bacteria, the presence of which is a strong indication of recent sewage or animal waste contamination.

One example was the Msunduzi Local Municipality (Pietermaritzburg), the capital of KwaZulu-Natal. Formerly ranked among the top three municipalities in previous water quality reports, Msunduzi’s water supply is now at “critical risk” levels, with a Blue Drop Risk Rating of 100% (the worst possible risk level). And yet, 50km up the road, the little town of Rosetta scored the best overall ranking in the country (10%), along with the small KZN dorpie of Charlestown that ranked at number two (11,7%).

North West had the worst overall risk ratings SA with 53% of its water systems ranked at high risk and just 12% in the low risk category. The Western Cape, along with Gauteng, performed best at a provincial level. Cape Town had a low risk rating of 26%, with the Overstrand and Bitou ranked among the top 5 performers nationwide. From a risk-based perspective, the Western Cape also had 13 of the top 20 water supply systems in the country.

Blue Drop report 2022

Daily Maverick article – Government confirms an alarming decline in SA tap water safety checks (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


NICD: No evidence that municipal water is source of typhoid outbreak


KZN Health warning on drinking water after Vryheid diarrhoea outbreak


Drinking tap water: Tooth decay versus lead contamination


SA’s northern provinces on high alert after Zim cholera outbreak



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