In rural Tanzania, water contamination plagues many communities. Unclean water sources are the primary cause of countless preventable diseases such as cholera, typhoid, intestinal worms, amoebas, schistosomiasis, chronic diarrhea, and malaria. According to the World Health Organization, it estimated that throughout Africa, 115 people die every hour from diseases linked to improper hygiene, poor sanitation, and contaminated water. Taking a look at some of the causes of water pollution in Tanzania can help us to focus on preventative measures. This is why Maji Safi Group is committed to educating Tanzanians about these issues and how to address them.
Some of the main sources of water contamination in Tanzania’s rural communities are: open defecation, sewage, bathing at water sources, doing laundry and washing dishes at water sources, agricultural runoff, factory pollution, household waste pollution, fishing industry pollution, and general waste from businesses.
To identify and prevent water contamination, each source must be examined for its accessibility and quality. These are questions often used to identify water contamination at a source:
- Is it an unprotected source, such as an open well, ditch, or pond?
- Do people wade, wash clothes, or bathe near the collection point?
- Are pit toilets or sewage close to the water source?
- Is there garbage in or very close to the water source?
- Are there snails in the water or living on the bank?
- Does algae grow on the surface?
Contamination can occur upstream and cause disease downstream. In other words, if a village upstream has unsanitary practices, it will affect villages downstream. Thus, if unsanitary conditions are found, the implications downstream must be taken into consideration.
Causes Of Water Pollution In Tanzania
Expanding populations and emerging human development activities greatly contribute to the contamination of water sources in urban areas of Tanzania. The causes of water pollution in Tanzania in more rural areas, however, is mainly due to the lack of access to an improved source of safe water. According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, approximately 30 million citizens don’t have access to improved sanitation.
As a result of inaccessibility to sanitation, people in these regions – particularly women and girls – are pressed to travel long distances to collect clean water. With a better understanding of the causes of water pollution in Tanzania, more are able to improve circumstances as it relates to water. More than a quarter of the population spends more than half an hour per trip to collect water. This task can prevent many from attending school, particularly girls.
The majority of the population in these rural communities continue to depend on rivers, lakes, ponds, and irrigation canals as the main source of drinking water. The demand for clean water continues to increase due to both population growth and climate change. In response to the general causes of water pollution in Tanzania, many are moving toward the trend of utilization of groundwater as the main water source for domestic purposes.
Diseases Caused By Contaminated Water
Many preventable diseases caused by unsanitary water sources are damaging the livelihoods of Tanzanians. Here are a few:
Schistosomiasis is a parasitic disease passed through snails. It is often a chronic illness that can damage internal organs and impair growth and cognitive development in children. Symptoms can often go undetected for years. Schistosomiasis can be eliminated by getting rid of the water-dwelling snails – thus the importance of examining sources for the presence of such snails.
Cholera is a highly contagious disease that left untreated can cause death in mere hours. It is caused by the ingestion of bacteria from water or food sources. After ingestion, it causes severe diarrhea. Prevention of cholera lies in improved sanitation practices and water sources.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection that leads to high fevers, diarrhea, and vomiting. It is caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi. It often occurs in places where hand washing is neglected, and it is passed through contaminated drinking water or food.
These are just a few of the preventable diseases caused by contaminated water in Tanzania. Most of these diseases are completely preventable and treatable if there is an increased focus on water, sanitation, and improved hygiene practices.
Solutions For Clean Water
One affordable solution to providing villages with clean water is rainwater harvesting. Rainwater is some of the cleanest, naturally occurring water available because of a natural distillation process. Rainwater is often collected from roofs and occasionally from ground or rock catchments.
The only disadvantage to using rainwater is possible contamination from animals, insects, or algae growth in or on catchment surfaces. These surfaces can act as a breeding ground for disease if they are not properly maintained.
Identifying Water Contamination
Identifying sources of water contamination is a crucial step in the journey toward ensuring clean and safe water for Tanzanian communities. Understanding the sources allows us to take targeted measures to prevent and mitigate pollution. In this section, we will explore the methods and questions commonly used to identify water contamination at its sources.
Methods for Identification
One of the most straightforward methods for identifying water contamination is through visual inspection. By physically examining the water source and its surroundings, experts and communities can often spot signs of pollution. Common visual cues include the presence of trash, debris, or unusual coloration in the water.
Water testing is a more scientific approach to identify contamination. It involves collecting water samples and analyzing them for the presence of harmful microorganisms, chemicals, or pollutants. Various water quality parameters, such as pH levels, turbidity, and the presence of specific contaminants, can be assessed through laboratory testing.
Engaging the local community is essential. Residents who use the water source regularly may have valuable insights into its quality. Gathering reports from community members about water-related illnesses or unusual water conditions can help identify contamination issues.
Key Questions for Identification
To determine if a water source is contaminated, several critical questions should be asked:
1. Is it an unprotected source, such as an open well, ditch, or pond?
Unprotected sources are more susceptible to contamination from various environmental factors and human activities.
2. Do people wade, wash clothes, or bathe near the collection point?
Activities like bathing and washing near the water source can introduce contaminants directly into the water.
3. Are pit toilets or sewage close to the water source?
The proximity of human waste disposal facilities to the water source poses a significant contamination risk.
4. Is there garbage in or very close to the water source?
Trash and litter can degrade water quality and provide breeding grounds for disease vectors.
5. Are there snails in the water or living on the bank?
The presence of snails can be indicative of waterborne diseases like schistosomiasis, as certain snail species act as intermediate hosts.
6. Does algae grow on the surface?
Algae growth can indicate excess nutrients in the water, which can lead to water pollution.
The Ripple Effect of Contamination
It’s essential to recognize that contamination can have far-reaching consequences. If a village upstream has unsanitary practices, it will affect villages downstream. Therefore, when unsanitary conditions are found, it’s crucial to consider the implications downstream. Water pollution is not confined to its source; it can travel, causing disease and environmental harm along the way.
Identifying sources of water contamination is the first step toward taking effective measures to ensure clean and safe water for all Tanzanians. By employing visual inspection, water testing, and community involvement, we can pinpoint pollution sources and work towards sustainable solutions that protect both human health and the environment.
Factors Driving Improvements To Water Pollution
In general, poverty is a huge barrier to access water and sanitation. Unfortunately, sub-Saharan countries in Africa are among the world’s poorest areas. According to the Brookings Institute, those living in poverty in the sub-Saharan region grew from 287 million in 1990 to 413 million in 2015.
Some of the measures taken to address the various causes of water pollution in Tanzania include:
- Promoting household adoption of latrines
- Installing hand-washing facilities in program villages
- Improving long-term water care and education
Maji Safi’s approach incorporates some of these same methodologies, particularly focused on education through WASH. Improvements to established programs are having a positive impact on communities. Cumulative results show:
- 635,000 residents reached
- 225,000 people taught through WASH lessons
“Maji Safi” means “clean water” in Swahili. Our mission from the start has been to bring clean, protected water sources to rural Tanzanians. We know that when the proper steps are taken, people are educated, and systematic changes are made, lives will be saved, diseases will be prevented, and opportunities for Tanzanians will abound. Do your part and help prevent water contamination in Tanzania!