Teaching our youth and riverside communities the why and how of river conservation
South Africa is developing at a fast pace and while it is this has its economic benefits, it also has an impact on our environment, and in particular our rivers and the water we drink.
A report published in 2006 by the South African Department of Environmental Affairs already painted a bleak picture: “Aquatic ecosystems, including wetlands, are in the worst condition of all the ecosystems. Only 26% of rivers are intact, 54% are critically endangered, and more than 50% of wetlands have been destroyed.”
The report predicts that in 2025 South Africa will need more water than it has available. By 2006 ten of the nineteen national water management areas already experienced a water deficit.
The quality of water in South Africa’s rivers is not good either. “We have severely degraded river ecosystems, and the discharge of untreated effluent continues to grow. The multitude of demands (ecological, domestic, industrial, and agricultural) need to be balanced equitably.”
South Africa is not an exception. Rivers all over the world are impacted and affected by the presence of humanity. News24 published a report this month that explains the raw facts: 80% of the world population suffers serious threats to its water security. 768 million people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water. 2.5billion people do not have descent sanitation by mid-century, by when global demand is likely to increase by 55%.
While we need development, commerce, industry and mining we must make sure that we do not destroy our most valuable resource, water, in the process.
Locally, the Vaal and Orange rivers are under duress with human settlements, petrochemical plants, open cast coal mines and other heavy industries, as well as municipal sewage systems lining the banks.
Educating South Africans, and especially our youth, about the importance of healthy river systems and potable water is of paramount importance in taking South Africa forward towards a healthy future.
If we act now we can make sure that South Africa’s rivers stay healthy and available for everyone to use and enjoy.
The Triwaters team departs on a 2 500 kilometre source to sea eco-expedition on the Vaal River in January next year to promote river conservation, visiting farming communities and schools along the way.
Presenting riverside talks at various locations, we will explain the importance of a healthy river system and the risks that an unhealthy river poses to mankind and the environment. We will discuss how bad things can get by taking a closer look at Lake Erie in Canada and what we can do to prevent this from happening to the Vaal and Orange rivers.
Taking mini-SASS samples will be the highlight of the riverside talks. As an educational tool mini-SASS is invaluable. A complete curriculum has been developed through WESSA’s Eco-Schools initiative, which teachers can use to enhance learning and understanding in the field of natural science.
Mini-SASS is a simple yet effective tool for measuring the health of a river. This is done by collecting a sample of the small bugs in a river with a net. By counting the different types of bugs and recording it in the easy online tool just about anyone can measure the health of a river and contribute to protecting their rivers.
Triwaters will not only take the sample, but teach communities how to do it and why. We hope to kick-start as many mini-SASS projects as possible on the journey, encouraging riverside communities to get involved in protecting their river.
Mini-SASS also gives farming communities an opportunity to create a base line of the health of their river, providing a level of protection for land owners and water users should industry operations damage a river in future.
Let’s act now and protect our Vaal and Orange rivers. Together we can make sure that South Africa’s rivers and the water in it stay healthy and available for everyone to use and enjoy.
Join us in our adventure and help us to make the difference now – it is not too late.
Please contact us for sponsorship opportunities or to get involved.