Innovations in water quality with point of use water filters

The Department of Science and Technology (DST), through its Innovation Partnership for Rural Development Programme (IPRDP), recently held a seminar in Polokwane to share experiences and learnings from the implementation of 525 Point-of-Use (POU) water filtration devices in two pilot communities in the Capricorn district.

The Economic Performance and Development (EPD) research programme of the HSRC, whose role in the project is to develop a fit-for-purpose monitoring and evaluation framework, attended and presented during the seminar. Other participants were from the DST, Department of Water and Sanitation, Water Research Commission, Centre for Public Service Innovation, Municipalities, the VulAmanz team, service providers, councillors and community members.

Access to safe water is a struggle for rural dwellers in South Africa. Many rural residents drink untreated water from sources such as dams or rivers that cause many illnesses. Installing centralised water treatment and distribution systems to pipe treated water to these rural households is difficult and expensive due to the topography and wide spatial distribution of the houses of these rural areas. Water treatment technologies, such as point of use water filters, offer a user-friendly and affordable solution to this problem.

The demonstrations of POU water filtration in Klipheuwel and Malatane in the Capricorn district, Limpopo, which started in February 2016, have already shown its potential for ensuring safe water access for these rural communities. While not equipped to deal with dissolved solids, the POU water filters can remove microbial contamination, which is the main source of water contamination in these rural areas. Several laboratory tests carried out, both by the VulAmanz implementing team and the Capricorn District Municipality, have confirmed that the filtered water is safe for drinking purposes. Based on the surveys conducted beforehand and the discussions held at this seminar, there was agreement among the stakeholders that the POU systems represent a cheaper, acceptable and easy to use or maintain technology for rural households.

The beneficiaries of the POU units all spoke glowingly about how these units have changed their lives. The neighbours are indirectly benefitting, as they were reportedly coming to the beneficiary’s households to also filter their own water, implying a demand for these units from the neighbours of beneficiaries. It was also highlighted that there is strong interest from other communities within and outside the Capricorn district.

The early signs and preliminary results point to a success story. With a few design changes to increase the size as well as the durability of the units, there is no doubt that these locally developed POU filters can go a long way in alleviating the water quality challenges affecting the rural communities. The seminar participants were all agreed that the POU units should be scaled out to other rural areas across South Africa.

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