The aim of this study was to assess the influence of urban waste, sewage and other human centred activities on the microbiological quality of the river Subin, which flows through the metropolis of Kumasi, Ghana, and serves as drinking water for communities downstream. Three sites, Racecourse, Asafo and Asago, on the Subin were monitored over a year for total coliforms, faecal coliforms, enterococci and biochemical oxygen demand. Bacterial indicator numbers (geometric mean 100 ml−1) varied from 1.61 × 109 to 4.06 × 1013 for total coliforms, 9.75 × 108 to 8.98 × 1012 for faecal coliforms and 1.01 × 102 to 6.57 × 106 for enterococci. There was a consistent increase in bacterial loading as the river flows from the source (Racecourse) through Kumasi. Bacterial numbers were significantly (p≤0.05) higher during the rainy season compared with the dry (harmattan) season. The biochemical oxygen demand ranged from 8 mg l−1 at the source of the river to 419 mg l−1 at Asago; none of the sites achieved internationally accepted standards for water quality. The River Subin becomes grossly polluted as it flows through Kumasi and at Asago, a rural community downstream of Kumasi that abstracts water from the river for drinking, this probably contributes to the observed high levels of diarrhoeal disease.

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