Arm in Arm – Linking Conservation Managers and Local Communities to Achieve Conservation Goals
Waterborne sewage can have drastic effects on human health, such as rapidly spreading deadly diseases like cholera. Along with these threats to human health are environmental threats, like eutrophication of freshwater systems. The Howick Waste Water Treatment Works (HWWTW) deals with untreated sewage from the areas of Howick, Howick West and Mpophomeni. HWWTW treats between six to eight megalitres of sewage a day. Treated effluent is released back into the uMngeni River through an outflow pipe, which discharges at the informal settlement of Shiyabazali. In 2011, uMngeni Water Audit Reports indicated that the HWWTW treated effluent discharge was not meeting the required standards and was contributing to increasing eutrophication trends at the Albert Falls dam. A pilot study revealed that the concentration of suspended solids measured at the treated effluent discharge point was correlated to the quality of the treated effluent. Rainfall and increased human population in the area were two key variables that were drivers affecting the effective functionality of the facility, but, in reality, poor management was the key issue. A citizen science-driven water quality monitoring initiative, that engaged a wide community of partners through public participation was adopted, and proved key in improving the quality of the treated effluent. Working closely with a resident of Shiyabazali, water clarity samples were collected at 8 am, 12 noon and 5 pm daily using a clarity tube. A modelled equation, based on results from the pilot study, was used to convert clarity readings into suspended solids (SS) (mg/L) reading. From 7686 SS readings over seven years, only 5% were within the general limit values. The results were issued to the public, and when they exceeded the stipulated limits, required threshold, garnered intense social interest and outcries, resulting in management initiating investigations into the cause.