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Key Causes of Drinking Water Quality Failure in a Rural Small Water Supply of South Africa

Municipal Water Supply

  1. M.N.B. Momba1,
  2. N. Makala1,
  3. B. Zani1,
  4. B.M. Brouckaert2

Published Online: 15 JUL 2005

DOI: 10.1002/047147844X.mw1843

Water Encyclopedia

Water Encyclopedia

How to Cite

Momba, M., Makala, N., Zani, B. and Brouckaert, B. 2005. Key Causes of Drinking Water Quality Failure in a Rural Small Water Supply of South Africa. Water Encyclopedia. 1:221–227.

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa

  2. 2

    University of Natal, Durban, South Africa

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 JUL 2005


Despite recent efforts by the South African government to extend and improve water services in rural and periurban areas of the country, most small treatment plants are still experiencing serious operating problems that jeopardize the quality of the water produced and the health of consumers. In the present study, the operation of Alice Water Treatment Plant (AWTP), a small treatment plant serving the town of Alice in the Eastern Cape Province, was evaluated, and the major causes compromising the effectiveness of the disinfection process were identified. The investigation revealed that the AWTP's major operational problems include: (a) The lack of a proper coagulant dosing control resulting in inadequate turbidity removal in the clarifiers and filters. The most common source of problems in rapid filtration was inadequate backwashing. The filters appeared to go for days without backwashing. (b) The lack of a proper chlorine dosing procedure and monitoring program. These problems are linked to the inadequate training of the plant staff. As a result of inadequate pretreatment, which also resulted in high dissolved organic carbon and biodegradable dissolved organic carbon (BDOC) concentrations and insufficient chlorine residuals, Alice treated water did not meet the minimum safety limits for potable water.


  • drinking water;
  • cause;
  • failure;
  • rural