University backs water science community work in Johannesburg

Manchester Metropolitan has been introducing the young generation of Johannesburg to the importance of analysing water with an amazing outreach activity.

H2O Watch is an initiative led by Manchester Metropolitan and the North West Analytical Division of the Royal Society of Chemistry (NWAD of the RSC) with the purpose of introducing and exposing the young generation to the importance of measurements in science.

As such, the NWAD sponsors four kits equipped to analyse water samples for its acidity, turbidity, nitrate and oxygen levels, as well as its temperature. As part of this science outreach activity, Dr Sanja Potgieter-Vermaak, representing NWAD as well as Manchester Metrropolitan, and Professor Herman Potgieter, representing Manchester Metropolitan and the University of the Witwatersrand, held an event at one of the school aftercare centres located at an informal settlement in suburban Johannesburg.

This after-school care centre (Emthonjeni) has been established and is maintained by a church (Mosaiek – Here children between the ages of seven and 13 are given a hot meal and assisted with their homework by volunteers from the church, after attending the nearby primary school.

The age group participating were 10 – 12 year olds, and in total, there were 40 eager children involved. After a presentation describing the different tests and the significance of water quality, which was developed by Sam Watkins during a summer studentship supervised by Manchester Met’s Megan McLean, they were divided into groups of seven and given an opportunity to perform the tests.

Dr Potgieter-Vermaak said: “For most of these children, it would be the first time that they see or touched laboratory glassware and their eagerness was astonishing. Water from the local stream as well as the borehole water used on the premises were subjected to the tests. The local stream water quality was surprisingly within normal limits, but the borehole water was very cloudy and had concerning nitrate levels.”

The plan is for a continuation of the outreach activity and to hopefully expand it to various informal settlements in the greater Johannesburg area.