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Testing the water

Access to clean water has officially been a human right since 2010. But how can you detect contaminants in water? And who detects the germs in the water that are often invisible? Testing laboratories play a key role when it comes to successfully and reliably testing the quality of water. In the Southern African Development Community (SADC), proficiency testing (PT) has been offered to water testing laboratories for many years now. The Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS) and NamWater from Namibia organize annual PT sessions in the chemical and biological sector. This is coordinated by SADCMET, the regional metrology network. Furthermore, within the framework of a project financed by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), PTB is supporting the project as a long-term partner. PTB’s support fits in well with wider international goals. In the UN’s 6th Sustainable Development Goal, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development thoroughly addresses access to clean water, along with other issues.

Last year, more than 100 laboratories participated in two proficiency testing sessions which also contained a final workshop including a discussion on results and networking. The fact that numerous laboratories outside SADC participated was particularly pleasing. This reveals the good reputation of the water PT and also its importance for the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. Being an important quality control instrument, PT enables the participating laboratories to demonstrate how well suited they are to potential customers. In addition, test laboratories can take measures on the basis of the results achieved, thus considerably increasing the quality of their services. This quality assurance provided by test laboratories is also of central importance in the water sector.

Attention is also paid to the water PT at an international level: at the international Eurachem conference, Merylinda Conradie and Justina Endjala – both working for NamWater – were awarded a prize for a poster they had designed. For the next round in 2018, providers of the chemical component have announced that proficiency testing will completely pay for itself from the fees paid by participating laboratories; this seems to be a very good sign for sustainability and a further step towards access to clean water for the region.