QUALITY WATER, KEY TO FOOD SECURITY
There are some years in history that change everything and 2012 will be one of those years. I say so in view of this year's World Water Day theme-Water and food security. The clarion call to duty of providing water supply and sanitation services does not end with the commemoration but at commitments and actions that we collectively take in interpreting the theme and delivering on the promises.
A common man on the streets of Lusaka most probably has been bombarded with a numerous commemoration and may not bother much about this commemoration but is only interested in receiving quality water at every moment he needs to use it. This reminds me of some people who opt to buy bottled water for drinking yet use tap water to brush their teeth, wash their food and household chores. This actually gets me thinking why consumers more often than not have a vote of no confidence in the quality of our water.
The National Water Supply and Sanitation Council (NWASCO) observes that quality water is key to the attainment of food security. This observation comes in the wake of commemorating World Water Day with a full realization that Water is Life and Sanitation is dignity. Provision of quality water in adequate quantities and at affordable prices enables any country to be productive thereby attaining food security.Water quality has an impact on both the public health and visual value of water as a consumable product therefore provision of quality water with World Health Organisation (WHO) standards is key to food security.
Compliance to water quality is one of the key indicators of water providers who are mandated by law to provide safe and clean water. NWASCO monitors these providers on a regular basis through routine and spot inspections to ensure that the water supplied is safe and of acceptable quality. Inspections of water providers are conducted by a qualified team of inspectors with expertise in various fields. Members of the public who reside in different localities across the country and are part of water watch groups also provide feedback on the quality of service.
Water Supply and Sanitation (WSS) service providers are required to have an adequate water-testing programme for quality control and must ensure that a certain number of tests such as bacteriological and chlorine residual are carried out. Further, the test results must conform to national drinking water standards.
Three types of tests are carried out namely Physio-chemical, Bacteriological tests and Metal analyses. One of the Physio chemical test emphasized is the Residual chlorine test as it seeks to determine the amount of free chlorine in the water supply system to take care of any contamination that may occur. Other Physio-chemical tests concentrate on Colour, pH and Turbidity. Bacteriological tests detect the presence of bacteria (total and faecal coliforms) in the water which may cause diarrheal diseases. Presence of heavy metal tests are also conducted especially in areas of mining activities.
NWASCO’s role is to ensure that a specified acceptable minimum standard of practice is followed by every water supply and sanitation provider. Experience has shown that without clear directives through guidelines, some water supply and sanitation providers fail to conduct requisite water sampling and tests which inturn poses a threat to public health.
It is against this background that NWASCO has developed and issued the Water Quality Monitoring Guideline to all providers with the purpose of:
- Promoting transparency in the methods of water quality monitoring employed by the utilities and thus build public confidence in the system.
- Ensuring through regular monitoring that the quality standards set by Zambia Bureau of Standards are being complied with.
- Creating awareness among the water supply and sanitation service providers on the water quality monitoring requirements.
- Ensuring that all water utilities follow a systematic way of water quality monitoring so as to have uniformity of the process.
- Ensuring a minimum standard of water quality monitoring at justifiable cost.
The guideline contains information on establishing the minimum number of samples to be taken, water quality parameters to be sampled, recording and reporting/ publication of results.
The profile of water quality needs to be raised by all stakeholders- Government, organizations, civil society, communities and individuals due to the health impact unsafe water has on the social economic development of the country as a result of a water borne diseases and loss of man hours in search of clean water among others. Water quality is critical in regulating provision of water supply and as such providers are now required by NWASCO to publish water quality results which consumers should look out for every quarter at the designated places at pay points.
Once consumers know how their provider is doing with water quality they will then be armed with facts on the quality of service they are subjected to for corrective action.