Water And Health Issues – Implications For Water Treatment

Water And Health Issues – Implications For Water Treatment

Study team: N Gomba, L Singh and T Singh

National Institute for Occupational Health/p>


South Africa is considered a water scarce country with limited water resources to meet its domestic, agriculture and industrial demands. Reclaimed water use offers a potential solution to augment potable supplies against the backdrop of climate change, severe droughts and increasing competing demands. Nevertheless, some studies have shown that reclaimed water can be contaminated with a myriad of pathogenic microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, protozoa and helminth with diversity and concentrations varying according to source and level of treatment. Exposure to contaminated reclaimed water has been associated with adverse health effects such as diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid fever, Listeria, viral enteritis, intestinal parasitic infections among others. Exposure to reclaimed water is complex and varies depending on work situation.   Information on the role of reclaimed water as a potential source of exposure to waterborne pathogens in different occupational settings in South Africa is limited. This information is critical in designing evidence-based guidelines to reduce exposure and provide safe working environments. Moreover, findings from this study will also help promote the use of reclaimed water for non-potable applications such agriculture, landscape irrigation, mining and vehicle washing, to mention a few.   This study aims to evaluate the potential microbiological health risks associated with the use of wastewater in different industries including agriculture, mining and industry.

Method: A microbial assessment of reclaimed water at source and point of use will be conducted in selected work settings that use reclaimed water in South Africa.  A cross sectional study will be conducted to assess potential health effects among exposed workers in comparison with a non-exposed population. The health burden associated with reclaimed water in selected occupational settings will be evaluated using quantitative microbial risk assessment. Isolated pathogens will be identified and characterised using both genotypic and phenotypic methods.