WaterCAN and Adopt-A-River are working together in the eThekwini Water Monitoring Partnership to promote water justice, healthy water resources and accountability. This project started in August 2022.

World Water Monitoring Day 2022: Promoting citizen science

In preparation for World Water Monitoring Day on September 18, 2022, Jonathan Erasmus, WaterCAN’s representative in KwaZulu-Natal, encouraged and supported communities and individuals in testing their tap water, rivers and streams, using our specially designed WaterCAN Citizen Science Test Kits. These tests formed part of a larger project aimed at providing a real-time snapshot of the water quality in taps and rivers across South Africa.

One of the rivers that emerged as a key focus was the Umbilo River within the eThekwini Metro. WaterCAN and Adopt-A-River undertook a six-week testing regime for the Umbilo. Using a combination of the WaterCAN Citizen Science Test Kits and the services provided by Talbot Laboratories in Pietermaritzburg, we were able to establish a trend line that accurately reflected the health of the Umbilo River. In March 2023, we shared these results with the eThekwini management, urging immediate action.

Umbilo River: Alarming findings

Our tests revealed extremely hazardous levels of E. coli, coliform bacteria, and several dangerous chemical compounds both upstream and downstream of the Umbilo River wastewater treatment works (WWTW). WaterCAN is now committed to holding the metro to account with a view to resolving this critical problem. This includes exploring the possibility of pursuing criminal charges and exerting pressure on the Department of Water and Sanitation to issue a directive against the metro. We have also started a second round of testing.