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Analysing and testing Lesotho’s water



Own Correspondent

ROMA – SOUTH Africa craves it and Botswana won’t be consoled without it. That is Lesotho’s famous white gold – water. It turns out the National University of Lesotho (NUL)’s Department of Geography and Environmental Science has been analyzing and testing Lesotho’s liquid gold for over 20 years.

If you have ever wanted to bottle your water for business or for any purpose whatsoever, you may look no further than the Roma Valley.

In the area of water testing, the NUL Department of Geography and Environmental Science is unrivalled and will — with the NUL brains still in view — stay unrivalled locally for the foreseeable future!

“In the late 90’s through to the early 2000’s the Department analysed both water and soil samples for the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP),” Selemane Mallane who works as a Laboratory Demonstrator in the Department, says.

“We were consulted by the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) then.”

During the construction phases of the LHWP, individual members of the department participated in the much celebrated bi-national project. Their involvement entailed analysis of water and soil samples for the project’s engineering purposes.

Ever since then the department has continued to provide both water and soil testing for the public sector, private companies and individuals.

“We still retain the capability to test soil samples for both agricultural and engineering purposes,” Mallane says.

“However, we have relinquished that to the Faculty of Agriculture; that is their specialty. That has enabled us to focus on what we know best; water analysis. In this way we are able to address the unquenchable thirst for our services in the water sector,” he says.

Currently the department undertakes water testing for anybody who may require their service. The list ranges from an individual who has a borehole in his backyard to a village which might be interested in knowing about its communal borehole’s water quality.

It includes companies which seek to bottle water commercially and public sector departments such as the Rural Water Supply and the Department of Water Affairs.

For instance, over the past six years “our department has been working closely with the Department of Rural Water Supply and the Millennium Challenge Account, (now Lesotho Millennium Development Agency),” Mallane discloses.

“The project determined the water quality of over 2 000 boreholes in the remote rural areas of Lesotho so as to provide water security for such areas.”

Over that period water testing in the department helped to determine water sources that were suitable for domestic use. It also helped in making recommendations on which water sources the communities could stop using.

Furthermore the department, through its water quality expert Dr Makoae Masopha, has made recommendations that resulted in better communal practices in cases where activities of communities were affecting the quality of their potable water sources.

Such can be exemplified by cases where locations of latrines had to be moved downstream of water sources, and where crucial, alternative water sources were recommended.

Within the private sector, the Department has offered services to over 20 companies and individuals whose interest is in water bottling.

“Our results and recommendations help them obtain licenses to bottle water and, for some, export it to foreign lands,” Mallane says.

Before people were aware of the department’s testing services, samples were taken to as far as Bloemfontein in South Africa for analysis, which was both costly, time-consuming and, of course, unnecessary.

But with the department offering the services now, over 100 water samples can be analyzed locally in a week, with a low cost as a plus.

Mallane says their services also take the form of community service when necessary, in line with NUL Strategic Plan. He illustrates with an example where “our students sometimes come across communities that utilise water that is not suitable for domestic purposes due to pollution.”

“In such instances we mark such areas as points of interests for research while we also make recommendations on how to address such problems for the benefit of the water consumers.”

What, exactly, do they test? They determine a lot of variables. They group these variables into chemical (organic, inorganic, metallic) and physical. With over 20 years of water analysis experience, the department is confident on which parameters are most crucial to test for in a water sample depending on its source and expected consumption, as well as possible pollution factors.

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