The international Triwaters team – off on a source-to-sea river health expedition on the Vaal and Orange Rivers in January 2015 – now conducts miniSASS assessments on three continents!
MiniSASS is the perfect tool can help communities to measure the health of their rivers.
That is where Triwaters and the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) are getting involved. Through riverside talks on the Vaal and Orange Rivers the team will engage schools on how to measure river health and how to act on the results of their efforts.
Engaging communities in adopting their rivers and conducting miniSASS assessments are core themes at the riverside talks.
The Triwaters team has decided not to wait for the expedition to start before they make a difference. Recently Troy Glover became the first person to conduct a miniSASS assessment in Canada, while Brett Merchant took Australia’s inaugural sample. Back in South Africa, Franz Fuls also conducted his first sample.
Brett conducted two assessments in suburban Adelaide, and the results of his assessment showed that the city is maintaining impressive health in its rivers. He sampled on the Sturt Creek in an area where a man-made wetland occurs. Brett elaborates on his effort: “First sample site was downstream of a wetland on Sturt Creek in the middle of suburbia where pollution from street run off was probable. The second sample was in the upper reaches of Sturt Creek surrounded by scrubland but also deciduous trees and weeds. I borrowed a net from Urrbrae wetlands for the testing.”
Troy took a more adventurous approach to his inaugural sample at Kingston Mills in Ontario Canada. Troy explains: “Kingston Mills is a highly historic point for the Canadian province of Ontario In order to get to Kingston Mills, I kayaked 10km up the Cataraqui River crossing Kingston Harbour. The paddle was primarily dominated by dense vegetation which had been significantly dredged for the passing of boat traffic through the main channel. I had to stick to the main channel in order to not become stuck in the vegetation!”
Unfortunately Troy’s sample did not tell the story of a clean river like Brett found. Possible causes for the less great river health in his sample are gradual de-calcification of the region’s rivers, and the sampling location below a dam.
Back in South Africa Franz took to a tributary of the Vaal river close to Ermelo in the Mpumalanga Province. He did his first miniSASS sample just below Brummer dam, one of two dams originally built to supply water to Ermelo. The sample produced a poor result, indicating that the stream is not very healthy at the sampling point.
In a letter to the team, Mark Graham of GroundTruth summarizes the excitement that is building around the preparation of the Triwaters Tour: “Well done and great to see the reach of this tool. Now really looking forward to the “real trip” when you chaps survey the Vaal and Orange!”
How do we measure river health?
The easiest way for ordinary citizens to measure river health is through a friendly tool called miniSASS. MiniSASS guides people on how to collect little bugs and small critters in streams, identifying them with an easy chart; logging this information onto a google earth map where scientists, government and the whole world can view the results; and take any necessary action.
MiniSASS (mini Stream Assessment Scoring System) is a citizen science tool that was developed by a team of highly skilled scientists that wanted to empower ordinary people to become involved in keeping their rivers healthy. South Africa’s Department Water Affairs, the Water Research Commission, WESSA, and GroundTruth collaborated to bring a robust and reliable tool to the people of South Africa, and the world.
The first step in miniSASS is to get your tools. A white icecream tub, a cheap fine meshed net (which you can make from your mother’s lace curtain at your own risk), and the miniSASS forms that you download for free are the essential tools you need. For polluted water gloves and gumboots can be handy, and some antiseptic handwash. For deeper and larger rivers a life-jacket is also important.
Next you find your river or stream, and go to it. Look around you. Take notice of your environment. What plants do you see, what wildlife? What was the weather like? Describe the stream.
Now it’s time to start playing! Grab the net, and head to the stream. Muck around, kick over rocks, mush up the sand and scoop up with the net downstream. Pick up rocks to look for critters, go search in reed beds.
After about five minutes it’s time to look at the catch. Empty the net into the ice-cream tub, add some water, and use the miniSASS forms you downloaded to identify the creatures you found. Enter those scores onto your worksheet. Remember to return your catch to the river where you found it!
When you get home, log in at www.minisass.org, and enter your sample results online to get your score.
ABOUT THE TEAM
Troy Glover hails from Wemindji, Canada – Ice Road Truckers country. His spring hobby is to monitor pack-ice forecasts and when conditions are right he launches his ocean kayak into James Bay, dodging ice bergs on multiday expeditions. Troy is a teacher with a B.Sc. in a water related discipline and he is passionate about experiential education, especially with First Nations students. His education and science background with his passion for conservation will be invaluable on this trip.
Franz Fuls is the expedition leader. Based in Ermelo, close to the Source of the Vaal he has witnessed the slow deterioration of the environment along the headwaters of the Vaal River. Franz is an industrial engineer, freelance investigative journalist and adventure sport fanatic (rock climbing and white water kayaking).
Brett Merchant, a prospector from Adelaide, Australia with adventure in his blood. Brett did a source to sea expedition of the Murray River in Australia in 2013, mostly solo. His experience on this journey of similar length will be very valuable, and Brett will lighten up the trip with his home grown Australian humour and will maintain the balance between conservation and industrial growth needs with his career background.
ABOUT WESSA – OUR PARTNER NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION
WESSA (the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) is a South African environmental organisation with a mission to implement high impact environmental and conservation projects which promote public participation in caring for the Earth.
With a remarkable 87 year history, WESSA has a strong track record of delivering human capacity development projects by working in strategic partnerships, thus enabling people to make more sustainable lifestyle and environmental management choices. Critical focus areas include life-supporting eco-systems such as water, energy, and biodiversity.
CONTACT OUR TEAM
Canadian Troy Glover. firstname.lastname@example.org . (416) 886 5735
South African Franz Fuls. email@example.com . (+27) 73 861 7532
Australian Brett Merchant. firstname.lastname@example.org . (+61) 08 8370 8170 / (+61) 458 639 423