Water, the source of life. Arguably one of the world’s most valuable commodities, everyone requires access to good quality water. But what does it mean when we talk about water quality? We’re talking about the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of water with respect to its intended purpose, such as human consumption, maintaining a healthy ecosystem, mining, farming. Both natural and human occurrences influence the quality of water. Natural influences are geological, hydrological and climatic since these affect the quantity and the quality of water available. While human influences, such as mining, farming and pollutants, can have a heavy affect on the quality of the water.

The common types of water

Fresh Water

Defined as water which comes from the surface or a ground source, this type of water can be further classified into hard or soft water. Hard water is water that contains a high amount of dissolved minerals, while soft water is water has undergone treatment.

Seawater

From a sea or ocean, this water has a high salinity, containing roughly 3.5% sodium chloride.

Brackish Water

A mix of salt and freshwater, this type has less salinity, roughly 1 – 2.5% sodium chloride.

Potable Water

This is freshwater which has undergone sanitisation to kill bacteria and make it safe for drinking purposes.

Wastewater

This is any water used by humans, either in industrial or private sectors, that then gets discarded.

Water usage in South Africa

According to the National Water Act, water is a scarce and unevenly distributed national resource occurring in many different forms, all which form part of a unitary, interdependent cycle. Ultimately, water resource management aims to achieve the sustainable use of water for the benefit of all users.

The below chart demonstrates what percentage of water South Africans use daily:

From the graph, you can see that there is an uneven distribution of the population’s water use, which becomes a limiting factor when discussing water supply. The quality of the water also becomes important. As rural cities become bigger and bigger, there is a lack of water infrastructure within these settlements. The result is pollution to our countries water and therefore contaminated water which we cannot use for drinking. The only way we can prevent this or better the situation would be to work together to stop pollution. We need to become accountable for our water quality and carry out water quality management in a unified and comprehensive manner. While also understanding the integral integration of all elements of the environment.

An approach to Water Quality Management

A per the National Water Act, the water quality management provisions include:

  • Protection of water resources.
  • Establishment of Water Management Strategies and Wate  Management Institutions
  • Licensing of water use (which includes the licensing of discharges through coastal marine outfall pipelines to the marine environment).
  • Implementation of a National Pricing Strategy containing a system of Waste Discharge Charges.
  • Establishment of a National monitoring system and a National information system.

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