Article written

  • on 29.03.2016
  • at 03:01 PM
  • by Kimberley Evans

Citizen science helps South Africa manage water bodies 0

[JOHANNESBURG] Citizen science — a model allowing non-scientists to be part of research informing policy-makers‘ decisions —  is helping South Africans manage the use and protection of water sources.

South Africa is currently in the middle of its worst drought in 23 years [1], exacerbating water shortages in the region, parts of which are semi-arid, and climate change predictions show that water is going to become even scarcer in the future. [1]

According to the United Nations’Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fourth assessment, semi-arid areas, which are characterised by low and erratic rainfall, in Africa are projected to increase in size by between five per cent and eight per cent by 2080.

Bonani Madikizela, a research manager at the South African Water Research Commission (WRC), says:  “All South Africans can play a role in protecting their water [resources],”

He explains that the WRC has a citizen science programme, initiated in 2002, to allow schools and members of the public to participate in water resource quality monitoring.

Co-funded by a number of government departments, including science and technology, environmental affairs and water and sanitation, the WRC’s role is to support the development of tools such as a clarity tube and transparent velocity- head rod, according to Madikizela.

The programme, which will continue until 2018, was funded to the tune of about 2.8 million South African rand (about US$180,000), he says.

In 1998, South Africa-based environmental consulting organisation GroundTruth in collaboration with the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) developed miniSASS — a citizen science version of the South African Scoring System (SASS) —  to help measure the health of a river. [2]

SASS is an inventory of life in South Africa’s water ways. Small animals are an important indicator of river health, and the miniSASS allows citizens to identify whether animals on the list are present in the water and report the data to a national database, Madikizela adds.

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Photo credits: Getty Images

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi