Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Experts have called for regular water quality tests, after a study found that the water used for domestic use in key areas including Kampala are far below recommendations by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in terms of turbidity, pH and oxygen content.
Prof. Christopher Garimoi Orach, a Makerere University-based researcher who led the study team told URN that said they collected water samples from 27 sites including lakes, rivers, irrigation canals, springs and ponds which they analyzed monthly for water clarity also known as turbidity. However, none of the sites was found to have clear water throughout the study period.
He said a quarter of the water tested from lakes was found to be lacking in pH and was favourable for the thriving of cholera causing bacteria. A pH level is a number that measures how acidic or alkaline a substance is on a scale of 0 to 14. pH of less than 7 indicates acidity whereas a pH of greater than 7 indicates a base according to health experts.
When it comes to dissolved oxygen, its levels should not be less than 5 milligrams per litre. The organization notes that recommended turbidity for raw water should be less than five nephelometric units.
The year-long study was conducted in six districts including Kayunga, Kasese, Nebbi, Busia and Bullisa which have all had constant outbreaks of cholera. Its findings were published in a global scientific journal, BMC Public Health.
While the researchers didn’t test piped water, Orach told URN that this study has exposed a need for regular checks and good maintenance of pipes since even if the water might be purified at the site, it ends up being contaminated because there’s a lot of dumping into L. Victoria.
While the researchers are recommending regular checks on water channels and pipes to keep away water-borne diseases such as cholera, the Ministry of Health has embarked on cholera vaccination in prone districts including four of those studied, an exercise that was supposed to take place in May but was postponed by disruptions caused by the coronavirus disease pandemic.
Dr Godfrey Bwire, who heads the diarrheal diseases division at the Ministry of Health and was one of the researchers on this study earlier told URN that they embarked on vaccination with the belief that if these hotspots are protected, then spread of cholera elsewhere would be minimized.
But, to Orach, ensuring access to safe water by constant monitoring and purification would be more effective in safeguarding people from water-borne diseases.
According to the researchers, water quality is measured using three parameters including physical, chemical and microbiological characteristics. But they recommend that in future studies for water quality, another important parameter of radiological characteristics is added.