Safe to swim? Durban puts water quality info online

Posted by Laura Grant on August 5, 2008
Posted in Green News

North Beach © eThekwini Municipality

Earlier this year, four of Durban’s beaches lost their Blue Flag status because of unacceptable faecal pollution readings. But the eThekwini Municipality appears to be working to reassure beach bunnies who may be worried about whether the beaches are safe for swimming. Water quality information at 26 beaches is now available on the municipality’s website.

The water at these beaches is tested weekly for Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Enterococcus, which are both indicators of faecal contamination, and the results are posted on the site along with a comment on whether the results are poor, moderate, good or excellent.

Beaches with excellent water quality are marked with a happy little fish logo, which appears next to 17 of the 26 beaches listed.

The website also provides useful information for holidaymakers from upcountry on the facilities available at the beaches, and a litter index will indicate the cleanliness of each beach, although that info isn’t available yet.

In an open letter to the public, NA McLoed, the municipality’s head of water and sanitation, said that signboards are also being erected on all the beaches, providing similar information on water quality and cleanliness for each beach. This information will be updated on a weekly basis.

The letter acknowledged that concerns had been raised about the suitability of using E.Coli and Enterococcus as indicators in tropical waters. But, added that, “Until a more acceptable indicator has been found, we will continue to use E. coli and Enterococcus, recognising the short comings of these indicators.”

MacLoed’s open letter states that the results of tests carried out recently show that water quality standards comply with department of water affairs and forestry standards “except for a period of a few days after significant storm events at beaches which are close to rivers or stormwater drains”.

Work is under way to install pumps in the major stormwater outfalls that discharge onto the central beaches and these should be commissioned before the December holiday season begins, the letter states.


2 Responses to “Safe to swim? Durban puts water quality info online”

  1. Francois
    August 6th, 2008 @ 12:12 am


    This is worrying for surfers like myself. There is one spot where I stay (Ballito) where you can actually smell the sewerage that is leaking into the water!!

    I hope it gets fixed soon!!

  2. laura
    August 6th, 2008 @ 8:13 am

    It’s a shame Ballito isn’t one of the beaches listed on the website, so you can’t see what the E.coli levels are.

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