As more people dip into alternative water sources to augment their consumption needs amid the drought crisis, the City of Cape Town’s health department has cautioned about the dos and don’ts and ramped up its response to mitigate potential health risks.
The health department is increasing the list of springs designated for sampling amid the growing popularity of this water source.
The City said in a statement that this initiative is but one of several key interventions to safeguard the public in a time of increased reliance on alternative water sources such as springs, boreholes and well points and greywater.
The only source of safe drinking water remains the municipal water provided through the City’s reticulation system. The water is sampled from formal sampling points across the city on a weekly basis and analysed at the City’s accredited scientific services laboratory. The municipal water continues to comply with the SANS 241 standard for potable water. The City says it is proud of its Blue Drop status for drinking water and will continue to ensure that safe drinking water is supplied through its reticulation system.
Springs and water streams do not form part of the City’s water reticulation system and are not monitored and controlled for drinking water standards. Until now, only 10 springs, located among residential areas, have been sampled once a month but more sites are being added to the list. However, the testing only includes microbiological tests for disease-forming agents such as E coli and coliforms. City Health is erecting warning signs at all of the sites to highlight that the water quality cannot be guaranteed as safe to drink.
Borehole water is not suitable for drinking or cooking either. The City also advises against connecting a borehole water tank to the plumbing system in the home as it could result in a backflow that risks contaminating the City’s drinking water system.
Residents are therefore advised to limit the use of borehole water to bucket flushing of toilets; and to restrict its use for the cleaning of outside working surfaces and garden irrigation, within the prescribed guidelines of Level 6B water restrictions, to an hour a day on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
“It is a fact that up to 80% of water used in the home can be recycled for other purposes like flushing toilets, cleaning outside areas and even laundry, depending on its original use. We commend the residents and businesses who are thinking out of the box to stretch their water supply, but encourage them to do so safely and not put their health and that of their loved ones or employees at risk. While there are many dos and don’ts for the use of alternative water sources, there is one common thread; that it should not be used for drinking or cooking and in most cases not for personal hygiene either,” said the City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, JP Smith.
Visit goo.gl/fSHZYK for a comprehensive guide for the safe and responsible use of greywater.
Residents are also reminded that stored drinking water should also be handled with care as it can easily grow bacteria and algae and pose a health risk. Water quality starts decreasing after three days, depending on storage conditions and container quality and residents are advised to:
Use clean and sturdy containers of good quality with screw-closing tops.
Get a container that has a tap fitted.
Mark the containers ‘For drinking water only’.
Store the containers in a cool dark place.
Rinse and sanitise the containers and taps once a week, with un-perfumed household bleach.
“In terms of disease control, the City works closely with the provincial and national health departments to actively monitor and evaluate cases of communicable diseases notified in the country.
“Reports are analysed regularly, trends are interpreted and the evidence is used to make or tweak plans.
“Recent examples of the system in action include the measles and listeria outbreaks last year. But, prevention is better than cure and so our officials do regular education and awareness drives across the city and these interventions have been stepped up in recent months in response to the drought crisis,” said Mr Smith.
Visit goo.gl/Sf1Gzc for details of the City’s campaign to highlight the health risks of diarrhoea during summer.