The assessment of groundwater quality in rural communities : two case studies from KwaZulu-Natal.
The health and life expectancy of populations in developing countries is largely determined by the availability of good quality drinking water. Boreholes and springs generally provide water of better microbiological and physical quality than surface water sources, however, they may cause health and aesthetic problems due to chemical constituents dissolved out of the host rock. As part of a pilot study to assess the health-related quality of community water supplies, samples were taken from two Quaternary catchment areas in KwaZulu-Natal. The Umkomazi catchment area is located inland from Amanzimtoti, while the Umfolozi catchment area is located north-east of Ulundi. The geology in these areas is significantly different. The Umkomazi area is predominantly underlain by basement rocks of the Natal Structural and Metamorphic Province, while the Umfolozi area is underlain by sedimentary rocks of the Karoo Supergroup. Geographical information systems (GIS) were used to examine the influence of lithology, rainfall and landuse activities on groundwater quality. Major ion analysis of groundwater samples from the Umkomazi area revealed a linear relationship between borehole and spring concentrations. Dwyka Tillite was found to produce water with the highest concentrations of major ions, while Karoo dolerite produced water with the lowest concentrations of major ions. Samples from basement rocks and Natal Group contained intermediate concentrations of major ions. In the Umfolozi area Karoo dolerite samples showed the lowest concentrations of major ions, while the Vryheid Formation and Dwyka Tillite produced the highest borehole and spring concentrations, respectively. High salinity levels in sedimentary rocks may be due to marine influence during deposition. Piper diagrams show relative enrichment of major cations and anions and Stiff diagrams showed characteristic patterns. Fluoride is associated with siliceous basement rocks and related to calcium concentrations through the solubility of calcium fluoride. The trace metals, manganese, iron and zinc were found to cause significant aesthetic problems and possibly health problems in sensitive individuals. These constituents are derived from weathering of bedrock and possibly from the corrosion of metal pipes. There is an inverse relationship between mean annual rainfall (MAR) and electrical conductivity (EC), except near the coast where windblown salinity increases with rainfall. Nitrate, ammonium and E. Coli contamination are linked to landuse activities such as occurrence of human and animal excreta near the water source and the proximity of pit latrines. It is recommended that rural communities be educated about the nature and importance of groundwater quality.
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