Pietermaritzburg - Dusi Canoe Marathon Race officials and officials from the Dusi Umgeni Conservation Trust are closely monitoring the quality of the water in the uMsundusi River after a week in which scientists noted elevated pollution levels following heavy rainfall, technical failures and the effect of load shedding at the Darvill Wastewater Works.
Water testing is conducted on a regular basis by scientists from Umgeni Water and the Dusi UMngeni Conservation Trust (DUCT) that was set up by paddlers to monitor water quality and address environmental concerns facing the river systems.
While water quality readings have generally fallen within what is accepted as a normal range for summer rainfall, attention has been drawn to unusually high discharges from the Darvill Wastewater Works in the past week. The Dusi advised paddlers via social media on the weekend to avoid using the uMsundusi River until the levels were once again within an acceptable range.
The discharge has been attributed to technical failures at some of the storage dams in the Darvill Wastewater Works, aggravated by regular load shedding that has disrupted the normal pumping between the dams, and unusually high water inflow following storms that hit the greater Pietermaritzburg region.
The latest testing done by the DUCT officials showed that the uMsundusi River at Camps Drift down to the Darvill Wastewater Works has been of an acceptable standard, and well within the range deemed safe by the standards that have been uniformly adopted by recreational river users for more than a decade.
The results of the weekly testing and their interpretations are published on the Dusi website.
The Dusi organisers have asked DUCT to add more test sites to their schedule in order to get a better picture of the situation.
The latest tests downstream of the Darvill Wastewater Works reflect the sharp spike in ecoli levels from the irregular discharge from Darvill It is expected that the water quality would improve by the time it reaches the put-in after the Campbell’s Farm portage section of the race.
Race officials and DUCT experts will monitor these levels on a frequent basis, anticipating that a week of little major rainfall will lead to the usual die-off of the ecoli in the river.
“There is no cause for alarm at this stage”, said Dusi General Manager Brett Austen Smith.
“The normal lifespan of the ecoli is 24 to 48 hours, and the die-off will be noted in the readings downstream.
“We will continue to monitor the water quality readings closely, and publish these on our website so that every single paddler is able to make informed decisions .
"We are in close consultation with Umgeni Water who have been very helpful in keeping us updated. We have plans in place should the situation not improve to safely acceptable levels, and paddlers can be sure that the Dusi will start at Natal Canoe Club on the 19th February.
“Our policy is to play completely open-cards with our paddlers and make all the information that we get about water quality available to them.
“The race this year is dedicated to Dr Ian Player, who was passionate about preserving the integrity of the river ecology, so we are even more mindful than ever about our responsibility to safeguard it, not just for the paddlers who use it during the Dusi, but for every single person affected by these valleys ecosystems.
“The race contributes funding towards DUCT from the proceeds of the Der Ian Player Memorial batch to ensure they can continue the good work they do to restore damage done to the riverine ecology and to proactively identify threats,” said Austen Smith.
The 64th edition of the Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban from Thursday 19 to Saturday 21 February 2015.