We are asked that frequently. It would be difficult to tell you exactly what is going on there so I'll show you...
We use Coliscan Easygel kits to test the number of fecal coliforms and E. coli in the water. This is a picture of a 1 milliliter sample from the Mara River just downstream of the Talek River...in the Masai Mara National Reserve. Without getting into exact numbers...you can see from the picture that there are a small number of pink, blue, and purple dots. Each dot indicates a colony.
THIS is a picture of a 1 milliliter sample from Talek River just upstream of Naibor Camp in the Masai Mara National Reserve. There are over 50 E. coli colonies growing in 1 milliliter sample of water from the river. The river smelled of raw sewage.
- body contact / recreation - fewer than 200 colonies per 100mL of water. The Talek River has over 5,000 colonies per 100mL of water.
- drinking water - less than 1 colony per 100mL of water. The Talek River has 5,000 colonies per 100mL of water.
Both of these samples were taken on July 4th, 2009. The famous Migration is in effect and the tourists have flocked to the area.
If there had been a good deal of rain, it would not have been unusual to see elevated counts. During heavy rain storms, the fecal matter from all the ungulates defecating on the plains are washed into the rivers and they show up in our samples. But...there has been no rain in the area for several weeks. We are in the midst of a drought. The water levels are some of the lowest that we have seen. So where is all this fecal contamination coming from? It is difficult to say...but with the higher numbers of tourists staying in the lodges along the Talek River and the well known fact that many of the lodges do not treat their wastes...well...I'll let the facts speak for themselves.