Blue Flags and Green Drops Demonstrate the North Coast’s Commitment to Water Safety
With water and sanitation services causing concern across the country and eThekwini suffering from sustained periods of beach closure, the North Coast stands out as a welcome bright spot. Sustained water safety for visitors and residents is a major priority for the community. Not only are the beaches subject to stringent weekly water quality testing, but the area also boasts one of just two private suppliers of water and sanitation services in South Africa.
The Ballito Urban Improvement Precinct (UIP), supported by local residential estates, oversees a weekly water quality testing regime across eight beaches and four tidal pools in the region. Consistent testing is important, both to provide assurance that the beaches are safe to use for locals and travellers, but also to identify issues early on and quickly resolve them.
According to Jade Harding of the Ballito UIP, the independent and accredited laboratory testing run by BN Kirk aims to ensure ‘ideal’ rated water quality for swimming, surfing and other ocean activities. “‘Ideal’ is the highest ranking a beach can receive and relates to the level of colony-forming units (CFUs) per 100ml. E.coli is a well-known example of a CFU.” ‘Ideal’ levels are classified as less than 250 CFUs per 100ml, while ‘Acceptable’ is between 250-500, ‘Poor’ is over 500, with ‘Critical’ levels exceeding 2 900.
All of the beaches on the northern coastline currently rank in the “ideal” category and as such, are safe for in-water activities. Although rainfall, sea currents, strong winds, and high seas can cause test results to vary, the trend is what is most critical. The testing programme is run independently, and the results are available publicly through the Ballito UIP. This aligns with global best practice and World Health Organization (WHO) guidance.
Safe Water and Sanitation
The quality of water on the beaches depends on the quality of water in local rivers and the health of the water systems that feed them. Here the North Coast is also well equipped, boasting private water and sanitation supplier, the Siza Water Company.
Established in 1999, the Ilembe – Siza Water Concession was the first water and sanitation Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in South Africa. Shyam Misra, CEO of the Siza Water Company confirmed that water and sanitation infrastructure is in good shape heading into the season. “We serve about 80 000 people on the North Coast, which expands to up to 200 000 people for five to six weeks of the year during holiday peak seasons. We have infrastructure that allows capacity to manage this service delivery and the ability to quickly respond to maintenance issues as they arise,” he commented.
From a system suffering from more than 50% water loss in 1999, the concession has been able to reduce the loss ratio to 12-15% and is today the only sanitation system in the country that is Green Drop certified (2022). This track record was sternly tested by the drought of 2015/6 and the floods of April/May 2022, but these challenges have helped to further strengthen the system.
Courtesy of Tourism News Africa – read full article here.