Citizens called on to monitor dams and rivers

With the ever-worsening water shortages, South Africans are being roped in to help monitor rivers and dams.

“All South Africans can play a role in protecting their water,” said Bonani Madikizela, a research manager at the Water Research Commission (WRC).

South Africa is in the middle of its worst drought in 23 years; increasing water shortages in the semiarid region and climate change predictions show that water is going to become more scarce in the future.

The WRC has a citizen science programme to allow schools and members of the public to participate in water resource quality monitoring.

Citizen science enables nonscientists to be part of the research that informs policymakers’ decisions.

Co-funded by a number of government departments, such as science and technology, environmental affairs and water and sanitation, “[the WRC’s] role is to support the development of tools”, Madikizela says. The programme, which will continue until 2018, was funded to the tune of about R2.8-million, he says.

Environmental consulting organisation GroundTruth, in collaboration with the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (Wessa), developed miniSASS, a way to measure river health.

MiniSASS is a citizen science version of the South African Scoring System, an inventory of life in South Africa’s watercourses. Small animals are an important indicator of river health; miniSASS enables citizens to identify whether animals on the list are present in the water and report this data to a national database.

There are other tools to measure the sediments and pollutants in the water (using a clarity tube to determine how cloudy the water is) and the amount of water in the stream (using the transparent velocity head rod), as well as weather monitoring and rain gauge resources.

“During their development and testing, we have worked with citizens, ranging from young children to senior citizens, some with no formal education or background in the sciences,” says GroundTruth’s Ntswaki Ditlhale.

“Citizens can use the tools to explore and learn about water resources and ecosystems … The tools can also be used to gather data and information, which will feed a national repository that can assist in the improved management of our water resources,” she says.

“This idea is that if a citizen’s knowledge of water resources – and associated impacts – is improved … [it] empowers them to interact with authorities and co-manage their resources in a more meaningful way.”

Wessa had an educational role, says Jim Taylor, the society’s director of environmental education.

“There are 1?200 schools that are registered with our ecoschools programme. They are all over

South Africa, and that’s a perfect vehicle for citizen science activity,” he says.

The department of water and sanitation had not replied to questions at the time of going to print.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


ConCourt settles the law on the public protector and interim...

The Constitutional Court said it welcomed robust debate but criticised the populist rhetoric in the battle between Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Minister Pravin Gordhan

Where is the deputy president?

David Mabuza is hard at work — it’s just not taking place in the public eye. The rumblings and discussion in the ANC are about factions in the ruling party, succession and ousting him

Press Releases

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

Wills, Estate Administration and Succession Planning Webinar

Capital Legacy has had no slowdown in lockdown regarding turnaround with clients, in storing or retrieving wills and in answering their questions

Call for Expression of Interest: Training supply and needs assessment to support the energy transition in South Africa

GIZ invites eligible and professional companies with local presence in South Africa to participate in this tender to support the energy transition

Obituary: Mohammed Tikly

His legacy will live on in the vision he shared for a brighter more socially just future, in which racism and discrimination are things of the past

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday