The South African National Water Act (1998) devolves resource management to the lowest level and this invites stakeholders to be involved with water resources protection. The premise is that increased compliance is more likely with an increased involvement of citizens in water resources protection who act as stewards or custodians of their water resources. In this regard, monitoring river health on a regular basis is an important step towards custodianship. One component of river health is that of biological health, which can be monitored through biomonitoring. Institutionally biomonitoring is held by the national DWS who strongly support citizen science based initiatives.
Biomonitoring in private game reserves
Despite the deterioration in flow and water quality most landowners who are dependent on these water resources do not monitor their water resources. This is particularly true of private game reserves who monitor terrestrial diversity and health but not that of water. In light of this AWARD, in collaboration with DWS (D: RQIS ) initiated a biomonitoring programme with private game reserves in the lower Olifants.
The objective is thus to strengthen a stewardship orientation to water resources management with private landowners in protected areas in the lower Olifants River Catchment through supporting them to assess river health using biomonitoring techniques. This is being done through capacity development, support and partnerships.
Each reserve has selected river health monitors who are being trained in river health monitoring techniques such as biomonitoring. By the end of 2015, eighteen private landowners had come on board and the initial training of the river monitors had started.
In 2016, the river monitors will be further trained after which they will be assessed and accredited in SASS5; a tool for biomonitoring. The accreditation allows this citizen science project data to be viewed as valid, allowing private landowners to act collectively when set river standards, also known as Resource Quality Objectives (RQOS) are not met. As a result, this enables the private landowners to become ‘watch dogs’ for the stretches of river that run through their respective reserves. Furthermore, this initiative helps in building a systemic picture of what is happening throughout the Lower Olifants River Basin (upstream and downstream).
AWARD will also be initiating the following:
- Support to park staff within the Legalameetse Nature Reserve
- A Lowveld Biomonitoring Forum, together with SANParks.