This week 100 citizen scientists will test water across South Africa

WaterCAN water testing

This week 100 citizen scientists will test water across South Africa

We need to build trust in our drinking water. Join WaterCAN’s five-day project using volunteers to test our water

Image: OUTA

More than 100 volunteer citizen scientists will test the quality of drinking water across South Africa from 14 to 18 September.

This national water-testing week initiative is led by WaterCAN, an initiative of OUTA, which is a network of citizen science activists and community organisations who advocate for clean, safe and sustainable water.

WaterCAN’s network aims to test water across the country in spots including Cape Town, Gqeberha, Isipingo, Durban, Johannesburg, Pretoria, West Rand, the Vaal River and Bloemfontein.

WaterCAN has supplied the volunteers with iLAB testing kits that assesses more than 10 drinking water parameters that includes a metals test and an E. coli test. Volunteers will test water in sources in their area: this could be a stream, river, dam or tap water.

“This is only the beginning of our path to monitor and track the quality of our water supplies from taps, rivers, boreholes. We want to expand this project so that we have thousands of people regularly testing our water. And where there are concerns, we need to act fast and use our activism to hold those responsible accountable,” says Dr Ferrial Adam, WaterCAN Manager.

“South Africa’s water resources are in a dire state and require all of us to become water guardians to monitor and protect this precious resource. As we move forward, we need people to be our eyes, ears and voices on the ground to monitor and protect our water but also to hold those responsible accountable.”

WaterCAN also calls on municipalities and water utilities like Rand Water to test routinely for harmful chemicals in our drinking water and make their results public. South Africans need to trust the water that they are drinking.

“We demand transparency on water quality so that polluters can be held accountable,” says Adam.

In recent months, there have been two concerning reports that emphasise the need for our drinking water to be tested for harmful substances such as vanadium and other hazardous chemicals.

The first relates to Sasol and how it knowingly polluted the Vaal for more than five years with toxic substances such as vanadium, diethanolamine and potassium carbonate. At least 19 million people depend on the Vaal River in different ways and knowing the quality of the water is therefore a human right imperative.

The second is a study that was conducted by the Mangosuthu University of Technology and the Council for Geosciences that found high concentrations of harmful elements (silver, arsenic, cobalt, chromium, manganese and vanadium, which were higher than the amount permissible by the World Health Organization) in the Krugersdorp Game Reserve.

Get involved

Volunteers are still able to take part in our water testing campaign by completing our environmental observations form available here.

To learn more about WaterCAN visit the website here.

A short video showing how to use the water testing kit is here.

WaterCAN is an initiative of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) which focuses on watching over water resources and holding authorities to account.

A voice note from Dr Ferrial Adam available here.


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