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Pretoria - Forget about buying bottled water – a glass of water from Tshwane’s taps is just as good.
Babies have died in the North West town of Bloemhof because of contaminated water causing diarrhoea, but experts have said city residents need not be concerned about the quality of the capital’s water.
For years now – and most recently in 2012 – the capital has received Blue Drop status from the Department of Water Affairs for the excellent quality of its drinking water. In fact, Gauteng boasts the best quality water in the country.
Dr Shafick Adams of the Water Research Commission said the capital city’s water is of “exceptional quality”.
People in the capital’s CBD drink spring water from the Groenkloof Nature Reserve, considered to be better than bottled water.
Every day the springs provide 16 Olympic swimming pools full of water for consumption.
As the city expanded and more municipalities were incorporated, more water was necessary so the eastern suburbs, Soshanguve and Centurion get their water from water boards.
“Water from water boards is subjected to very strict monitoring programmes to check the quality,” said Matthys Dippenaar, a hydrogeologist at the University of Pretoria.
Dippenaar wrote a book on Pretoria’s water heritage, published in June last year. He will soon document the water heritage of Joburg and Cape Town too.
“The city of Pretoria was proclaimed on November 16, 1855. Regardless of who resided in the area, the motivation for settling in the area was always the abundance of water – the Apies River and the rich springs that feed it,” he said.
Almost 160 years after the city was founded, the municipality requires 800 million litres of water every day for its more than 2.5 million residents.
Almost 8 percent of the required water is supplied from groundwater or springs. “Rapid population growth and the expansion of the municipality resulted in increased water demand, well exceeding the initial reserves of the springs,” Dippenaar said.
Until the 1930s spring water provided 100 percent of the city’s water needs. To this day Fountains Valley supplies the inner city with water.
“A stage was reached where additional water was required. This increase in supply was initiated through the purchase of the farm Rietvlei for the use of more natural springs. At present most of the city’s water is from the Rand Water Board,” Dippenaar said.
Groundwater, found beneath the earth, is a more desirable water source as it is less susceptible to pollution and evaporation.
“Groundwater is the reason for Pretoria’s founding,” Dippenaar said.
It is critical to protect the city’s water sources if residents want to avoid paying more for this resource or having restrictions implemented, he said.
“The city’s groundwater springs are protected in the vast Groenkloof Nature Reserve where no development is allowed, protecting the land from which these springs are replenished. In 160 years we have not run out of fountain water,” he said.
As urban development increases, the city’s water resources take strain. “The water sources are always under threat of contamination with urban development and with climate change, water availability and quality is under threat.”
Dippenaar said the metro deserves “a pat on the back” for its exceptional water quality and supply. “It is one of the biggest cities in terms of geographic area in the world and all they do is chlorinate the water before it goes to the tap. It is more natural than bottled water that we pay R15 a litre for,” he said.
“The city strives at all times to ensure water consumed by its citizens is of exceptional quality,” said council spokesman Selby Bokaba.
blue drop status
* The entire capital city received an overall Blue Drop status score of 95.76 percent from Water Affairs in 2012.
* The central and south of the city received the highest score of 99.2 percent while the Bronkhorstspruit area received the lowest rating of 95.33 percent.
* Water Affairs says the city did extremely well in the 2012 Blue Drop audit, remarkably so considering that water supply systems previously under the Kungwini and Nokeng municipalities improved under its authority within such a short time.