FRANCISTOWN: Batswana are drinking unhealthy water, a surveillance by the Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS) on drinking water standards has revealed.
This BOBS report confirms a finding about three years ago by the US Embassy here which also found water in Botswana to be unsafe for drinking.
The US Embassy finding kicked up a diplomatic storm with the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Kitso Mokaila declaring that “Botswana water is one of a few in developing countries that you could drink directly from the tap without fear of contracting waterborne diseases,” The US Embassy were unmoved by the government rebuttal.
During a BOBS’s workshop on drinking water standards held here last Thursday, BOBS Senior Standard Scientist, Zukiswa Raditladi
revealed that out of 23 districts in Botswana 14 were not complying with the drinking water standards.
Gaborone is among the list Good Hope, Mabutsane, Gantsi, Letlhakeng, Kgalagadi, Hukuntsi and others by Raditladi as a place whose residents quench their thirst with bacteria-infected water.
Raditladi said for treated water only Chobe, Selebi Phikwe Town Council and Tonota Sub-District Council were rated excellent.
She said that this shows that water in Botswana is not clean,thus exposing people to health risks as majority of people consume untreated water from the river, borehole and dams.
She said that the water supplier is responsible at all times for a regular quality control and to ensure good operating practices.
Raditladi said that water surveillance contributes to the protection of the public health and should cover the whole of the drinking water system, whether piped or unpiped, treatment plants, storage reservoirs and distribution systems.
She said that the most common health risk associated with drinking water is microbial contamination.
Raditladi disclosed that the microbiological quality of drinking water assessed during 2014/15 financial year shows treatment efficiency of 28 percent.
“This 28 percent of untreated water is putting the public health at risk,” said Raditladi.
Raditladi said therefore, efforts have to be put in place to educate consumers on correct and safe keeping of water for drinking in house containers.She said that it is also critical to engage all stakeholders, particularly institutions like schools, clinics and hospitals to adhere to a cleaning schedule of water tanks.
Raditladi said that previous inspection visits to water distribution systems in towns and villages pointed out the fact that water tanks in some of those places were kept in poor conditions. “Some of the tanks were found without lids, old, rusted, others leaking and some having sludge layers,” revealed Raditladi.
She also revealed that standpipes and taps were also points were microbial contaminations were detected.
Raditladi explained that communities supplied with untreated/non-chlorinated water were more at risk of diseases of oral-faecal origin than areas supplied with treated water.“There is a need to advocate for the expansion of water treatment plants in the country to minimise public health risks associated with consumption of unsafe water,” said Raditladi.A chemist from Department of Water Affairs Ogopotse Motsewabathata conceded that majority of the areas in the country are supplied with untreated water, but added that they intended to address the situation as they submitted a water status report to President Ian Khama and currently waiting his approval.
Motsewabathata revealed that the report would therefore instruct the Ministry of Finance to finance the constructions of the proposed water treatment plants across the country.