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Informal communities and their influence on water quality : the case of Umlazi.

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Water is the most important resource which is essential for sustaining all life forms, since without it, life cannot exist and industry cannot operate. However, increasing concern is being expressed at the rate of degradation of this important resource, which, to a large extent, is due to the advent of industrialization and urbanization. The major causes for this concern is that the progress towards urbanization is often made without due regard to the consequences. Furthermore, the effect of man's social and industrial activities can be seen in the extent to which river water quality changes as a river flows from its source to the sea. Water which is returned to the river as effluent is rarely the same quality and is normally contaminated with some form of pollution. South Africa is a country where water is a scarce and precious resource. Coupled with low rainfall and a high evaporation rate, is the lack of basic services which are concentrated in areas where demands of the most vital resource is ever increasing. In addition, urbanization is experienced at a phenomenal rate, much of which is in the form of informal settlements. These constitute overcrowded "shacks" with no running water and sanitation facilities. Furthermore, imbalances in the ecosystem are created when humans strive to undertake the economic demands of the world resulting in poor environmental management practices and unhealthy living conditions. These communities lack basic services and as a result, resort to environmental degradation where the removal of vegetative cover, waste disposal and water pollution are evident. Furthermore, many of the informal settlements are situated in close proximity to water source, especially rivers. In the absence of sanitation, these communities make use of shallow pit latrines, river banks, etc. The potential for pollution is therefore very high in these communities. This provided the researcher with theThe purpose of the study was to determine the influence of the Umlazi informal community, L-SECTION on the water quality of the Umlaas River. The physical and chemical parameters viz., pH, E-coli, COD, turbidity, electrical conductivity, nitrate and phosphorous concentration were examined to provide the researcher with some indication of water quality. Water samples with an interval of 100 metres apart were collected upstream and downstream of the informal community. The samples were analysed at the Metro Waste Water management laboratory to determine the concentrations of the said variables. The purpose of upstream and downstream sampling was to enable the researcher to determine whether the difference in values between the two sets of data was significant or not. The statistical test was achieved through the application of the students t test. The results of the investigation indicate that water downstream of the informal community is of a poorer quality than that of upstream. The results of the application of the test for each set of variables (upstream vs downstream) reveals that the difference is significant. The findings of the study indicate that the informal community have a detrimental impact on water quality. Authorities responsible for management of water resources are required, as a matter of urgency, to implement nec~ssary steps to ensure that water quality is not impacted upon negatively. Failure in this regard could lead to the following: a decline in water quality and quantity; a reduction in economic opportunities; deteriorating standards of human health and safety as well as a decline in the diversity of plants, animals, and fish in our rivers. However providing proper sanitation to people living in informal settlements; improving the quality of lives of the homeless people who resort to squatting as well as ensuring that policies ensure that minimum standards requirements are met are just some of the steps in overcoming the problem in water quality. motivation for the study.


Thesis (M.A.)- University of Durban-Westville, 2003.


Water quality., Informal settlements--Umlazi., Theses--Geography.