Picture: Pixabay
Picture: Pixabay

Decreasing quality of water reaching crisis level

By Se-Anne Rall Time of article published Jul 29, 2019

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Durban - CONCERNS have been raised about the state of the country’s rivers, as it is estimated that the water is being polluted by billions of litres of raw sewage on a daily basis. Experts believe that this is reaching crisis levels.

While issues have been noted in Hartbeespoort Dam in North West, and the Vaal River in Gauteng, DA spokesperson on agriculture and rural development in KwaZulu-Natal, Christopher Pappas, said rivers in KZN were also affected.

He said the collapse of municipalities across the province has impacted on infrastructure which has resulted in sewage entering natural systems.

“Many of our rural communities and farmers who still rely on water from our rivers are negatively affected by the decreasing quality of water.

“Further downstream, the quality of water affects tourism, beaches and the quality of water in our ocean,” he said.

Pappas said E.coli and other harmful bacteria in rivers have detrimental effects on agriculture and rural communities.

He noted recent issues with the contamination of the Umzimkulwana River in Harding where there have been reports of diarrhoea outbreaks in which at least 54 patients were treated.

Pappas said in KwaMasi, there were farmers, animals and residents that shared from the same dwindling and contaminated water sources.

He said the state was the biggest culprit of sewage and contaminants entering the system.

“We need to maintain and expand our infrastructure and capacity to deliver on basic services by ensuring that municipalities are supported financially and in terms of technical expertise,” Pappas said.

Douglas Macfarlane of Eco-Pulse, an environmental consulting service, said untreated or inadequately treated sewage was being illegally discharged into rivers and streams, mainly by small town municipalities located in the country’s poorer provinces.

He said poor quality water containing harmful contaminants was not favourable for crop irrigation and may have adverse impacts on crop yield in the long-run and a number of harmful bacteria present in typical sewage effluent can lead to serious gastrointestinal illness in humans if direct contact with water is made.

Macfarlane said the uMngeni River used to be a popular place to swim and learn about nature but it is now devoid of life, choked with algae and water weeds, and a hazard to swim in.

Earlier this month, the Department of Water and Sanitation embarked on a massive clean up campaign to educate communities on the importance of clean rivers.

Departmental spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said while they were unaware of issues with the Umzimkulwana River, they called on residents to come forward with information about such cases.

“DWS engages communities and schools in many programmes which are geared at educating and creating awareness on such issues including the Clean Rivers Campaigns and water quality management.”

The Mercury

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