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Health And Welfare

City’s Scientific Services now better equipped to test river health

Ten staff members from the City of Cape Town’s Water and Sanitation Directorate are able to analyse insects in the river network in order to assess water quality and ecological integrity. 

The City’s Scientific Services branch situated in Athlone boasts laboratories with cutting-edge technology to conduct scientific tests of water samples collected from rivers, dams, vleis, wastewater, industrial effluent, groundwater, marine, recreational (public swimming baths), solid waste classification, leachates, treated leachates and drinking water. They are also able to monitor air quality across the city.


Ten staff members recently underwent accreditation testing to obtain a three-year accreditation from the National Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) to conduct the South African Scoring System version 5 (SASS5) testing method in rivers.


‘It’s important to periodically evaluate the health of our aquatic river systems and in order to do that successfully, various ecological indicators need to be assessed. The City’s SASS5  practitioners are well-qualified with backgrounds in Environmental and Water Science, Conservation Biology and Aquatic Ecology, and will conduct seasonal assessments of rivers across the city in Autumn, Spring and Summer,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Water and Sanitation, Councillor Zahid Badroodien.


Having the relevant skills is crucial, as the SASS5 testing method is field-based. It has been a method in use by the City since 2000, and it doesn’t rely on laborious time studying specimens through a microscope as the insects are easily identified to their family level with the naked eye.


SASS5 testing can be applied independently or compliment standard chemical testing methods, to provide a more holistic overview of river conditions.


It is also a quick and cost-effective way to detect the level of health of a river and the quality of water, based on the presence of naturally occurring living organisms known as macroinvertebrates.


‘Results of these various assessments will be instrumental, especially in the long term, when we will be able to track trends, showing the improvement or deterioration of water quality in rivers across Cape Town,’ said Councillor Badroodien.


Test results will also be made readily available to DWS for their purposes, including classification and reserve determination of rivers, as well as issuing of water use licenses.



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