Gauteng and NW Province

River Water Irrigation Unsafe

By Natalie Simon | SA Breaking News – Mon, Aug 12, 2013

Cape Town – River water in South Africa is too polluted to be used to irrigate crops. Farmers however, remain blissfully unaware of this and untreated contaminated river water is commonly used in agriculture. This puts not only the health of South Africans at risk but also our reputation as a food exporting country.

According to a report on Timeslive many South African rivers contain levels of E.coli bacteria over 10 000 times higher than the number allowed by the World Health Organisation and South Africa’s own Department of Water Affairs.

This research project was undertaken in 2007 by the food sciences department at Stellenbosch University and commissioned by the National Water Research Commission. Head of the research project, Professor Trevor Britz said the situation is so bad that falling into some of the rivers in South Africa could be fatal.

The trouble is, much of this river water comes into contact with our food.

Some of the rivers tested in this study were:

  • Plankenbrug and Mosselbank rivers in the Western Cape
  • Baynespruit river in KwaZulu-Natal
  • Mutshedzi river in Limpopo
  • Olifants river in Mpumalanga
  • The irrigation canal from Loskop Dam
  • Klipriver in Gauteng.

This river water irrigation affects crops like maize, citrus, grapes, wheat and vegetables.  According to the report human excrement was a serious pollutant in the rivers.  Britz advised consumers to be sure to clean their fruit and vegetables in sterilising fluid before eating them.

Spokespeople for the Department of Water Affairs and Department of Health both told Timeslive they have yet to closely examine the results of the report, and will respond once they have done so.

“We shall interrogate the contents, also considering our normal inspections of river health and work of the Blue Scorpions,” said spokesperson for the Department of Water Affairs, Sputnik Ratau.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons. The Klip River

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