A survey of the microbiological quality of water from 194 boreholes (97 privately owned and 97 communal boreholes) in the rural Thitale-Hlanganani area of the Limpopo Province, South Africa was carried out between August 2002 and August 2003. Very little information on the microbiological quality of privately-owned boreholes in rural communities is available raising concerns about the safety of these groundwater supplies. In this study, levels of total coliforms, thermotolerant (faecal) coliforms, faecal enterococci, Clostridium perfringens (vegetative cells and spores) and somatic coliphages were determined for community and privately-owned borehole water. The average counts for total coliforms, faecal coliforms, faecal enterococci and Clostridium perfringens exceeded the South African recommended guideline limits of 0–10 counts.100 ml−1 for total coliforms and 0 counts.100 ml−1 for faecal coliforms, faecal enterococci and Clostridium perfringens respectively. Comparisons between the levels of indicator bacteria present in private and communal boreholes during dry seasons indicated a statistical difference for faecal enterococci bacteria (p=0.005) and Clostridium perfringens (p=0.08). Comparisons between the levels of indicator bacteria present in private and communal boreholes during rainy seasons indicated statistical differences between total coliforms (p=0.05), faecal coliforms (p=0.03) and Clostridium perfringens (p=0.009) bacteria. No significant differences in the presence of somatic coliphages in both private and communal borehole water were see. The results indicated the need for environmental impact assessment studies to monitor the microbiological quality of groundwater sources in rural communities.

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