Treat your water right

By: Ilana Koegelenberg – assistant editor

Whether you’re treating rainwater or waste water, grey or black (or whichever other colour) – it’s important that you leave it to the professionals

As we all become ever more aware of our country’s water scarcity issues with the passing time, water treatment is taking off in popularity. But never mind just the fact that we’re fast running out of water, the water we do have, isn’t as reliable as it used to be as municipalities struggle to keep up with urbanisation (and a plethora of other reasons/excuses). More and more people are moving away from the grid, becoming self-sufficient, taking water treatment into their own hands. From rainwater harvesting to onsite black and grey water treatment plants – it’s all about sustainability and saving as much money as possible these days. But no matter where your water comes from, if not treated properly, the consequences can be severe. A job best left to the professionals.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), at least 1,8 million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases, including cholera. Of these, 90% are children under the age of five, mostly in developing countries. WHO estimates that 88% of diarrhoeal disease is attributed to unsafe drinking-water supply, and inadequate sanitation and hygiene. Studies have indicated that improved drinking-water supply reduces diarrhoea morbidity by 6% to 25%, and improved sanitation reduces it by 32%. In the absence of a good-quality drinking-water supply use of household water treatment, can reduce diarrhoea episodes by 39%.

From a public health point of view, the reliable supply of safe drinking-water is vital for daily life. Unfortunately, the same water that sustains life can also be the bearer of dangerous contaminants in the form of bacteria, viruses, and protozoans.

The supply of safe water and the removal of human waste are vital for health and well-being. The main aim of plumbing systems is to collect, transport and distribute water to individuals in a community, and to remove liquid waste.

Unfortunately, all of these beneficial processes incur risks. These risks include contamination of water sources with bacteria, accidental cross-connection of drinking-water supply and waste removal systems, and chemical contamination from corrosion of pipes and other fittings. Thus, the second aim of plumbing systems must therefore be to manage risk.

A drinking-water supply system consists of three major elements: source, treatment and distribution to the users. Contamination can occur in any of those segments and the prevention and mitigation of contamination are essential roles of the water supplier, as well as assuring that the water continuously delivered to the consumer's entry point is safe and aesthetically acceptable.

Test first
“The water supply in South Africa is very inconsistent; the level of trust in municipal water supply isn’t where it used to be,” said Malcolm Corns, Brand Manager for Davey Water Product in southern Africa. That’s why it’s important to always test your water. “When in doubt, test.”

Ground and surface source waters are at risk of contamination from both microbes and chemicals. Chemical contamination occurs sometimes from natural origins (e.g. excess fluoride and arsenic). A water supplier must therefore first understand the composition of its source water and the origin of potential contamination that it could encounter, taking into account seasonal factors.

“When drawing water from a borehole, you should always test it first to see if it’s safe,” said Corns. “It may look clear and healthy but it

Read the full feature in the January issue of Plumbing Africa, page 35.