With ongoing water restrictions in Makana, many residents have put their trust in other water supplies besides the tap. Last week Grocott’s Mail explored the testing requirements for bottled water; this week we investigated the possibility of groundwater contamination, noting that Makhanda residents frequently use the Fairview Spring.
Contamination comes from both humans and nature; run-off from the city and surrounding farms as well as animal faeces or debris can all work its way into the groundwater. However, Grocott’s Mail can confirm that Makhanda’s groundwater supply seems to be in good shape. Dr Jane Tanner, Head of Hydrology at the Institute for Water Research (IWR), said that the water at the Fairview Spring was of good quality.
The spring’s water comes from the Witteberg quartzite that runs along Mountain Drive. This particular kind of rock, says Tanner, tends to produce good quality water. Tanner added that the spring’s catchment area sits in a safe place away from humans and animals, leaving little possibility for contamination. Two years ago Tanner did formal water quality testing on the spring water and found healthy results.
The quartzite areas can be found along Mountain Drive and Botha’s Ridge; the valleys in between have variations of shale and Dwyka tillite that tend to produce water with high levels of total dissolved solids (tds) and naturally occurring chemicals. Although groundwater can be found in many places around Makhanda, the quartzite rock houses the best quality, and therefore requires less filtering and purification than groundwater from other types of rock.
Groundwater can become contaminated just like any other water source. The difference is that groundwater is protected by layers of rock, all with different levels of porousness- or in other words- breathability. Depending on how deep the water sits beneath the ground, and how porous the rock layers are on top of it, can suggest how likely it is for the water to become contaminated.
Tanner consulted with the Gift of the Givers during their 13 weeks in Makhanda, and was aware of the water quality testing results of the 15 boreholes the organisation drilled in the community.
Grocott’s Mail previously reported on the sustainability of boreholes in Makhanda as well as more extensive information from Tanner.