BACTERIAL CONTAMINATION AND POTENTIAL TREATMENT OF GROUNDWATER IN THE RURAL EASTERN CAPE PROVINCE, SOUTH AFRICA
Field work has included sampling of boreholes, storage reservoirs, and taps 4 times between 2004 and 2006 in the south-central part of the Eastern Cape Province. Total coliforms were detected in almost all the samples, and 20 of 29 boreholes had detectable E. coli at least once. Reservoirs and taps always had greater concentrations of total coliform and E. coli than the boreholes, most likely due to biofilm formation in the distribution system. Borehole protection practices were absent at almost all sites; livestock were allowed to graze up to the wellhead and in many villages outdoor privies were located up-gradient from the boreholes. Continuing research is focused on evaluating a silver bactericide filter product developed at the University of Illinois; it is attractive because it requires no electricity, chemical handling, or specialized training, and can be regenerated by heating for a short period.
South Africa has aspects of both the developed and developing worlds. There are significant issues regarding sanitation and clean water in many parts of the country, primarily poor rural and squatter camp areas. Research facilities are generally first rate at major universities, but very poor at schools like Fort Hare. Black students generally suffer from poor primary and secondary educations, and thus are often poorly prepared for university studies. Groundwater-related science is still a fairly immature field in South Africa, although it is beginning to grow significantly.