Comparison of the chemical quality of rainwater harvested from roof and surface run-off systems

  • MS Selala
  • H Thenga
  • GPW Jewitt
  • V Chaplot
Keywords: rainwater harvesting, roof-harvested rainwater, pollution, human health, food security, Africa, rural

Abstract

Despite numerous studies, little is known about the quality of rainwater harvested (RWH) from roofs or overland flow by smallholder farmers of Africa. Thus, the main objective of this study was to compare the physical and chemical quality of the rainwater harvested from both dwelling roofs and yards situated in a smallholder community in KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa). Rainwater samples were collected at 51 households during a dry period for assessment of the concentration of specific chemical elements. The water harvested from metallic roofs and yards did not meet the World Health Organization (WHO, 2011) guidelines for drinking water, as it exceeded recommended levels of Se, Al, B and Cd in at least 75% of the roof water samples, and of Al in the case of yard RWH. Compared to yard water, RWH from metallic roofs exhibited higher B, Se, Ni, Pb, Cu, As, Cd, and Cr but lower dissolved organic carbon (DOC), NO3-, Fe, SO4 2-, Na, Mg, Ca, K, Fe concentrations. The content of nutrients and DOC in the water harvested from the surface correlated with the number of pigs per household (with r = 0.78 for SO4 2-, r = 0.74 for DOC and r = 0.52; NO3-). These results are expected to inform improved design and implementation of RWH. Further investigations should consider both physicochemical and microbiological aspects of water quality to provide a more holistic understanding of potential health risks.

Keywords: rainwater harvesting, roof-harvested rainwater, pollution, human health, food security, Africa, rural

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Articles

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eISSN: 0378-4738