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Surface and ground water quality in South African area – Analysis of the most critical pollutants for drinking purposes
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1  Department of Engineering, University of Ferrara, Via Saragat 1, 44122 Ferrara, Italy


According to the recent World Health Organization (WHO) report, the countries which still have a limited access to water for drinking purposes are mainly those in the Sub-Saharan region [1].

In case of small rural communities it may be very expensive to guarantee (including investment and operational and maintenance costs) a safe water by means of decentralized small water works. Pollution of source water may be due to many causes, among them a continuous release of untreated wastewater (generated within the rural communities), land runoff, acid mine drainage.

This paper deals with the quality of surface and ground water in rural areas in South Africa and Mozambique and its variability along the year (mainly due to temperature variations, rainfall and consequent land runoff) in case of their withdrawal for drinking purposes. In order to evaluate how polluted these waters may be (expected), water quality standards for potable use adopted in South Africa, Germany and Italy and the guidelines set by the WHO are provided.

The aims of the paper are (i) to identify the most critical pollutants (organic and inorganic compounds and microorganisms) in surface and ground water and relate them to their potential origin; (ii) to show the importance of the need of interventions both in sanitation and potabilization fields in order to improve the quality of surface water bodies and groundwater, considered potential sources for drinking purposes for small communities in rural and peri-urban areas; (iii) to discuss the role and the need of adequate and reliable pretreatments in order to guarantee the removal of the most critical compounds even in case of a sudden increment in their concentration in the withdrawn water for different reasons.

Acknowledgements. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 669925 (“SafeWaterAfrica” project).

[1] WHO, 2017. Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, available at the website:;jsessionid=6D639CB62299CA745657A3B448209937?sequence=1 (last access August 21st 2019)

Keywords: critical compounds, drinking water, groundwater quality, pretreatments, South Africa region, surface water quality