Water samples collected at various locations from the rivers in Thimphu and Paro were found to contain bacteria E.Coli.

E.Coli is commonly found in the faeces of humans and other animals, indicating a possible presence of harmful, disease-causing organisms.

The samples were collected over the past four days from Dechen Zam, the Centenary Farmers’ Market area, the centenary park, Dodena and Dechenchholing in Thimphu, and from Utpal, Nyme Zampa, Paro Water Supply, and tap water at Sonam Trophel in Paro.

The samples were collected as part of the Wangchhu Waterkeeper water quality-monitoring programme that was launched on July 19 by Clean Bhutan and the Waterkeeper Alliance. The programme aims to provide reliable and accurate reporting of current and future water quality information of local rivers.

Clean Bhutan’s executive director, Nedup Tshering, said that the traces of E.Coli in these rivers indicate that the water is not safe for swimming, drinking or washing clothes and that people should not visit the river.

“This also indicates that E.Coli was found because of sewerage entering the river and their direct connection to human pathogens from faecal waste contamination,” he said. “This can be dangerous in the long run and people should stop throwing human waste directly into the river.”

Pathogens can enter the water from leaking septic tanks, wastewater treatment discharge and animal waste.

The programme, according to the Waterkeeper Alliance team, would help understand whether the local waterways are safe for human use and if fish and other aquatic life are thriving. The programme would also indicate the impact of human and natural activities on local rivers and stream and current water quality.

The water would be monitored based on selected physical, chemical and biological characteristics. The programme would also help determine temperature, acidity (pH), dissolved oxygen, and electrical conductance.

“Others, such as E. Coli, require water samples to be taken back to a laboratory, which is included in the water quality monitoring programme,” an official said.

Nedup Tshering said all water keepers were trained and Clean Bhutan would monitor the water quality every second week of the month for the next six to eight months.

“We would inform the government if the results are found alarming,” he said. “We would also inform if the water is safe.”

The relative degree of impact of the population centres appears to differ in each district.

Officials said the waterkeepers could advocate for protection of clean water based on an understanding of harmful or out of range water parameters through samples collected and results recorded. The parameters would be collected and recorded using YSI Pro DSS Water Quality Meters donated to Clean Bhutan.

An agreement was also signed with the Waterkeeper Alliance ensuring to strictly and constantly monitor the water quality. Clean Bhutan started checking the quality since 2015.The Global Waterkeeper Alliance is the largest and fastest growing non-profit organisation solely focused on clean water.

Yangchen C Rinzin