Urgent appeal: Addressing the water crisis

Everyone has the right to water.

For most of us reading this blog, this right is one which we take for granted. For many South Africans however, especially in remote rural areas, the right to a reliable and clean water supply remains unrealised.


According to international minimum standards on water access:

  • the maximum distance from any household to the nearest water point should be 500 metres,
  • queuing time at a water source should be no more than 15 minutes,
  • it should not take more than three minutes to fill a 20-litre container, and
  • appropriate quantities of water should be consistently available.

Furthermore, water should be palatable and of sufficient quality to be drunk and used for personal and domestic hygiene without causing significant risk to health.

In Nqileni village, there is no piped water for a 40km radius. As a result, the community relies on drinking water from unprotected springs in the ground. Due to the absence of a sanitation system in the village, all of the spring water is contaminated.

Faecal coliform bacteria (>99% of which are E. coli) are an indicator of the level of human/animal waste contamination in water. If any faecal coliforms are present, the water should be treated. Untreated water with faecal coliforms should not be consumed. In order to be considered safe for human consumption, there should be zero faecal coliforms (per 100ml) at the point of delivery.

A recent survey of the five spring water sources in Nqileni revealed faecal coliform levels of between 10 and 103 per 100ml.

The problem of contamination is compounded by poor rainfall figures over the past couple of years. As a result, animals (essential for local livelihoods) are desperate to access the protected springs and the fences are frequently broken. Furthermore, all five of the springs no longer provide water all year round. During dry spells, the community is forced to collect water from the river. Surface river water is even more contaminated than the springs and can be deadly for babies, children, the elderly and the sick.

We urgently need help to address this problem!

In particular, we are looking for funds to set up 3 boreholes in Nqileni.

The boreholes will be positioned strategically to ensure maximum benefit for all households.

A reliable, safe water source will not only have significant health benefits for the village, but will also enable the community (including the local school and preschool) to maintain food gardens, and will help to prevent the death of livestock.

By reducing the time taken for each household to collect water, the boreholes will also help improve school attendance (it is typically the young girls who are kept at home to collect water). This benefit could be maximised by regulating the use of the borehole by school-age children.

A proposal and budget for this initiative are available on request. Please email sonja@bulungulaincubator.org.

  1. Willem van Niekerk

    It is possible to use a solar collector to disinfect water. I could not find something quickly on the web but a demonstration model has been installed in Mozambique by a Swiss (?) aid organization. Heat is used to kill the patogens. They talk about an initial investment of $500

    You can contact: larskonersmann@solarenergy.ch I would also be willing to help with sourcing local parts. We would need the valve from them – or at least the technical details.

    Willem van Niekerk

  2. Enjoyed your hospitality what seems a lifetime ago. Need to get back! Concerning water supply and the amazing construction projects going on. Has slow sand filtration been considered? Is relatively simple to construct and maintain and will turn river water into excellent quality potable water. Trick and money is pumping from river to the village. Assuming the position of the filter needs to be above village height for gravity feed what height and distance would one need to pump to and is there an idea of the daily quantity of water required? Boreholes would have to be fairly deep to minimise seepage of contaminated ground water. Just a thought is appropriate technology for a small community. The coliform counts are scary. Kind Regards

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