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Is it safe to drink borehole water?

BOREHOLE water is good for domestic use. However it requires testing for it to be drinkable. | REUTERS Mike Hutchings

BOREHOLE water is good for domestic use. However it requires testing for it to be drinkable. | REUTERS Mike Hutchings

Published May 11, 2022

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Durban - With several parts of KwaZulu-Natal still affected by water outages due to damage to infrastructure in last month’s floods, many Good Samaritans have been providing tap and borehole water to residents in need.

However, the donations of water have raised questions about whether borehole water in particular is safe to drink.

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Water boreholes (also known as water wells) are deep, narrow wells that tap into naturally occurring underground water.

To use this water, a high efficiency pump is installed to extract the water from the permeable rock below.

According to Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa) KZN branch water scientist Dr Mark Graham, borehole water is good for domestic use (washing, toilets etc). However it requires testing for it to be safe to drink.

Graham said it is the borehole water provider’s responsibility to check the quality of the water with the SAN-241 drinking water kit or they could acquire assistance from a local lab.

Asked about what people should do, especially in rural areas, where borehole water may be the only water they have access to, Graham said the water should be boiled or bleach must be added to it.

“We understand that people are desperate but to avoid getting sick the right measures should be taken.”

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Founder and director of KZN-based non-profit organisation (NPO) Adopt-a-River, Janet Simpkins said community members should be vigilant about where they collect water and should especially stay away from the rivers.

“Water is a basic human right and it has been compromised by pollution. I encourage residents to drink water provided by the municipality in tankers. However, these days it is even difficult to rely on the municipality to deliver water to all who need it,” she said.

Since the disaster hit, areas like oThongathi, Isipingo, Amanzimtoti, Verulam, Assagay, Pinetown, Ntuzuma, Mzinyathi and Umkomaas have been affected by water outages.

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