Analysis of grey-water used for irrigating vegetables and possible effects on soils in the vicinity of Umtata Dam, Eastern Cape

  • LL Mzini
  • K Winter
Keywords: grey-water, vegetables, soil, heavy metals, pH


In the search for alternative and reliable water sources to irrigate vegetables for backyard gardens, an experimental field was set up in the vicinity of the Umtata Dam, north-west of the town of Umtata, to test grey-water quality and its effects on soil nutrient content following 4 successive growing seasons. Samples of grey-water that were generated from informal housing adjacent to the Umtata Dam were collected from kitchen and bath tubs/washing basins. These samples were analysed before being used for irrigating vegetable crops. The results showed that grey-water quality was efit for purposef for irrigating edible vegetable plants. Although the average Na+ (16 mg/.) and Cl- (15 mg/.) ions were significantly higher (p = 0.05) for grey-water than other treatments, both were below the limit of 100 mg/. set in the South African Water Quality Guidelines. The concentrations of nutrients and heavy metals found in the grey-water samples were significantly lower compared to the World Health Organization guidelines for the safe use of grey-water and within the target water quality range (TWQR) prescribed by South African guidelines for irrigation water. However, the study strongly recommends that grey-water be diluted in order to lower the salt content and to improve the irrigation water quality. Results from an analysis of soil samples showed no significant differences in pH as a result of applying grey-water throughout the soil profile of up to 90 cm depth. Na content of the soil irrigated with grey-water was not significantly different than that of plots where diluted grey-water and potable water were used. Therefore, the grey-water used in this study does not appear to cause an accumulation of salts and heavy metals in soil, in the short term.

Keywords: grey-water, vegetables, soil, heavy metals, pH


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eISSN: 0378-4738