The recent cholera outbreaks in Gauteng have resulted in an increase in queries to the South African National Bottled Water Association (SANBWA) by people wanting to know how they can ensure their drinking water is safe when they suspect the water in their taps or from their usual water source is contaminated.
Here is SANBWA’s advice:
- Boil the water for at least 1 minute (preferably 2 minutes) at a rolling boil to kill all harmful bacteria, parasites, and viruses from drinking water.
- Use the power of the sun to purify the water. The technique is called SODIS, or solar disinfection, as the UV-A rays in sunlight kill germs such as viruses, bacteria and parasites (giardia and cryptosporidia). Simply fill clear PET containers with water and leave them in the sun for at least four hours. The technique is recommended by the WHO (World Health Organisation). For more information, view ‘Drops of Sun’ (youtube.com/watch?v=-CzUx0_Igg0&feature=related).
- Treat smaller volumes of drinking water using a chemical disinfectant or water purification tablets bought from pharmacies and camping stores. Make sure to follow the instructions exactly.
- Buy water from a water refilling station but only if you have asked to see the outlet’s risk assessment, process flow diagram, chemical and microbiological tests, and water licences. Be very aware of unscrupulous profiteers who provide an unknown quality of water under illegal conditions in the guise of providing safer drinking water through various bubbling wonder tanks.
- These re-filling outlets are only allowed to re-fill into the container you brought into the store or a new container in front of you, the customer. It is illegal for them to pre-bottle and display or deliver the water.
- Ask to see their plant and equipment, quality and hygiene testing and licensing documentation. If you go this route, it is also important to ensure you clean your container well in-between refills as the microbiological load will increase during storage.
- Do not use a container that has been used for other foods or chemicals.
- Buy a container only for your water, and only use it for water.
- Because this water is unchlorinated, it is better to purchase (and store) smaller amounts more often than to purchase large amounts less often.
- Purchase and use a reputable home filtration system. Reputable brands of home filtration systems on the market are few and far between with many not being able to deliver on the purity levels promised, so do your research but do not be tempted by deals that seem too good to be true.
- Be clear about what should and can be achieved by these systems. It will not help you if the one you purchase improves the taste but does not remove the high-risk contaminants.
- This water should not be bulk filled and/or stored for longer periods of time.
- Buy bottled water featuring the SANBWA logo. If the bottle does not feature the logo, it is not bottled by a SANBWA producer who has adhered to stringent health and safety guidelines and legislation. Even worse, the water could be bottled by a fraudster who is using the contaminated source and passing it off as bottled water.
The South African National Bottled Water Association (www.sanbwa.org.za) has two key objectives:
- to protect the conservation of all water resources wherever possible
- to promote the image and reputation of bottled water
It achieves the first by requiring members to adhere to its environmental vision. This includes measures to ensure source sustainability and protection, water usage and solid waste minimisation, energy efficiency, and post-consumer recycling initiatives.
The second is addressed through adherence to the SANBWA Bottled Water Standard, which covers legal, hygiene, food safety and quality, and environmental requirements. Members are audited annually to ensure compliance. www.sanbwa.org.za.
SANBWA members brands are: Aqua Monte, aQuellé, Bené, Bonaqua, Nestlé Pure Life, Dargle Water, Designer Water, Aquabella, Fontein, La Vie De Luc, Thirsti and Valpré. All SANBWA member producers carry the SANBWA logo on their bottles. This acts as a seal of quality.