Drinking tap water nowadays is not as safe as it used to be. Even though studies and tests might indicate safe levels of contaminants, some contaminants might not be tested for as a part of standard tests for potable water. If you care about your health, filtering your household water is more a necessity than an option these days. Water pollution has become a very significant problem that simply cannot be ignored any longer.
South Africa is a water constrained economy, and is currently rated as the 30th driest country in the world.
Predictions to estimate how long the clean water that South Africa has will last have yielded concerning results. At our current rate of consumption we are already consuming more water than our water resources can deliver. If we then consider the population growth for the country the outlook worsens. These predictions are based on the water sources in South Africa being at 100% capacity and treatment plants These studies, indicating that we are consuming too much, is based on all water sources in the country being 100% full and treatment plants performing to design capacity. Unfortunately, this cannot be further from reality.
- Most dams in the country are at levels just above 50% – and that is at the end of the rainy season
- Very few of our water treatment plants are operating effectively – and to add to that, most were never designed to clean sewage to a potable quality
- Sewage plants are over capacity and excess effluent gets by-passed into the clean water systems – rivers and dams (This helps the blooming of bluegreen algae, which is extremely toxic)
- River and dams are used as “dilutant” in downstream facilities. This is already contaminated, and we are at a point where it becomes impossible with current infrastructure and facilities to clean water to a potable level – drinkable from the tap
- Sewage systems are an integral part of our drinking water system, we are getting more and more contaminants in our water like endocrine disrupting compounds, antibiotics, recreational drugs… the list is endless, and with every cycle water goes through, these concentrations increase. Just imagine, everything you take in (food, drinks, drugs, etc.) gets processed by your body, and the harmful or excess elements are rejected into the sewage system. This is then “cleaned” to a level that is acceptable to drink again
- Without proper filtration this stays in the water we consume – or end up in the food we eat through irrigation.
Presence of drugs in the water system could potentially lead to people building up a resistance to them. The water we bath and shower in contains a whole array of contaminants, and it could be worse to bath or shower in it than actually drinking the water, since it goes through the skin directly into the bloodstream. At least by drinking it, it goes through the body’s natural filtration systems.
If you belive that the problem is not that bad, unfortunately it is worse than that. Municipalities in South Africa are dealing with 5,128 Ml/day of sewage, of which only 836 Ml/day are treated for safe discharge. What happens to the other 4,9Ml/day? Discharged into the environment!
Sewage outfall from the Jukskei river in Gauteng going into Harties, and the Olifants river in Mpumalanga going into the Loskopdam are big reasons for concern. The answer also does not lie in drilling boreholes. The more water that is drawn from underground aquifers, the greater the chance that this water will be replenished with water contaminated by raw sewage (especially at Hartebeespoort dam). This basically means that the boreholes face the same problems as the rivers and dams. The reality is that there are no new water sources. Water is recycled and reused over thousands of years, so not taking responsibility for it now, only worsens the problem in future – the very near future! We cannot run away to other countries anymore, we need to take responsibility for the difference each of us can make to our country.
We must all start doing our part to sort out the problem. We can no longer sit back and give others the power and responsibility over our health and well-being. It is going to require a team effort from the whole of South Africa if we want to stop the “Perfect Storm” that is currently brewing. No single institution, or individual, or government, or rate payers association is going to solve this on their own.
The solution must come from ALL of us, because the problem is created by ALL of us and it is affecting ALL of us.
BUT, before any solutions are possible, we need to create awareness, so start reading, listening and talking about it. It is not just about being environmentally responsible anymore It is about survival. So start talking to your neighbours, your employees, your employers and your family and friends, so we can all start grasping the magnitude of the water crisis. So, do we need to filter our water? Yes, but the less we pollute to start off with, the less filtration we need at the end.