Challenges to sustainable safe drinking water: A case study ofwater quality and use across seasons in rural communities in Limpopo Province, South Africa



Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Publication Title

Water (Switzerland)






Drinking water treatment, Public health, Water quality, Water resources, Water-resources management


Consumption of microbial-contaminated water can result in diarrheal illnesses and enteropathy with the heaviest impact upon children below the age of five. We aimed to provide a comprehensive analysis of water quality in a low-resource setting in Limpopo province, South Africa. Surveys were conducted in 405 households in rural communities of Limpopo province to determine their water-use practices, perceptions of water quality, and household water-treatment methods. Drinking water samples were tested from households for microbiological contamination. Water from potential natural sources were tested for physicochemical and microbiological quality in the dry and wet seasons. Most households had their primary water source piped into their yard or used an intermittent public tap. Approximately one third of caregivers perceived that they could get sick from drinking water. All natural water sources tested positive for fecal contamination at some point during each season. The treated municipal supply never tested positive for fecal contamination; however, the treated system does not reach all residents in the valley; furthermore, frequent shutdowns of the treatment systems and intermittent distribution make the treated water unreliable. The increased water quantity in the wet season correlates with increased treated water from municipal taps and a decrease in the average contaminant levels in household water. This research suggests that wet season increases in water quantity result in more treated water in the region and that is reflected in residents' water-use practices.

Open Access