Citizen science based monitoring of microbial water quality at a single household level in a South African local municipality during the COVID19 lockdown

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Roman Tandlich

Abstract

Personal hygiene and access to potable water, which is safe for human consumption, are critical to containing the COVID19 pandemic. Here monitoring results are reported for microbial quality of water samples from the municipal supply
in Makana Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. Access of the human population to sufficient volumes of potable water of required (microbial) quality has been a problem in this local municipality. Samples were taken just before and during 30 days of the strictest phase of the nation-wide lockdown, related to COVID19 in South Africa. Aim of this short communication was to perform the water quality testing with limited to no access to laboratory facilities and using the principles of citizen science. The H2S test kit was used as the basis for the microbial testing, while a cell phone app was used for the temperature monitoring. Five H2S test kit were used per sampling at the author’s house and the kits was developed for the microbial water quality assessment in isolated settings such as those for the lockdown. During the study, the ambient temperature ranged from 17 to 29 °C, with decreases below 18 °C occurring on three out of 12 sampling occasions. Thus the results of the H2S test kit might have been slightly influenced by the fluctuations of the ambient temperature. On 8 sampling occasions between 1 and 4 H2S test kits were positive for faecal contamination. Three samples or 25 % were free of faecal contamination. One sample had all five H2S test kits were positive for faecal contamination. Results of statistical testing indicated that potable water in Makana Local Municipality was probably microbially contaminated at the author’s household on an intermittent basis. Ongoing monitoring of microbial drinking water quality is necessary and continuing at the sampled location.

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Research Articles