Protecting Nature. Inspiring Change.

River Health Schools Project

Objectives

To provide an educational opportunity for high schools in the Molweni River catchment area to learn about the importance of our water resources in a practical, fun and innovative way.

To provide an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of our water resources to all the communities and public living in the catchment area through the publicising of the project, the results and possible resultant actions.

To provide an opportunity for communities from different areas in the Molweni Catchment area to interact and to appreciate that environmental issues have no boundaries.

To provide an opportunity to highlight any problems identified and to raise these with the relevant authorities if remediation is necessary.


How it Works

Seven High Schools in the Molweni River Catchment area do a bi-annual sampling of the Molweni River and some of its tributaries to assess the quality of the river water. The sampling will be done in February and August each year.

The Life Sciences grade (at grade 10 or 11 at each school) are divided into 5 groups. Each group select a representative who forms part of the schools 5 pupil testing team.

The Testing Team, accompanied by a teacher and a School Co-ordinator and a Technical Specialist use the miniSASS system to assess the health of the rivers/streams. Each team complete a miniSASS score at the sampling point.

At the same time, a water sample from each sampling point is collected and subected to laboratory testing for parameters not measured by the miniSASS system

Once each team has completed the miniSASS score for their sampling point they transfer to the Interpretive Centre at Krantzkloof Nature Reserve where all the results are compared.


Schools

  • Hillcrest High School – Hillcrest
  • Kloof High School – Kloof
  • Kwabazothini High School – Inanda Dam
  • Kwadinabakubu High School – Upper Molweni Valley
  • Tholulwazi High School – Lower Molweni Valley
  • Thomas More College – Kloof
  • Wybank High School – Wyebank
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Support

The following organisations provide logistical and technical support to the project

  • GCS Water and Environmental Consultants
  • Duzi Umgeni Conservation Trust (DUCT)GCS Environmental Consultants
  • KZN Department of Water and Environmental Affairs
  • eThekwini Municipality
    • Metro Water
    • Durban Solid Waste
    • Coastal, Stormwater and Catchment Management
    • Natural Resources Department
  • Umgeni Water
  • Ezmevelo KZN Wildlife
  • Groundtruth Wetlands and Environmental Engineering
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miniSASS

Developed by Umgeni Water and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, miniSASS is a simplified form of the South African Scoring System, which allows communities and individuals to measure and monitor the health and general water quality of their rivers. The tool is based on the logic that river-dwelling invertebrates are primary indicators of water quality and river health. Assessments are made by determining the composition of invertebrates living in rivers and using an invertebrate sensitivity index to ‘score’ the river.

The tool does not incorporate the measuring of bacterial or viral contamination, so it is unable to determine if water is potable or not.

miniSASS is supported by WESSA and is a component of their eco-schools programme. The miniSASS initiative has evolved to include educational tools for high school students. It promises to be very beneficial to all students in the life sciences.

More details on miniSASS can be found at: GroundTruth and WESSA

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ImportANCE

South Africa is a water scarce country and our water resources are coming under increase pressure from human development. Not only do we have very little water but what we have is becoming increasingly polluted and unless we start addressing these issues in a holistic manner we will be in serious danger of not having sufficient quality water for our needs.

Dusi-Umgeni Conservation Trust

Dusi-Umgeni Conservation Trust

This project aims to educate our future generations on the challenges facing our water resources and will hopefully go someway to empowering them and start to  improve the general public’s attitude towards these scarce resources.

Visit the Duzi Umgeni Conservation Trust web-site for more information on the challenges facing our very own water supply in the eThekwini Municipality.

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Results

February 2013

In February this year the seven schools sampled seven different points, four on the Molweni River and three on tributaries of the Molweni.

Three areas of concern were highlighted:

  • The poor score obtained in Springside Nature Reserve – the source of the Molweni. This site does collect a fair amount of storm water drainage which could affect the result. Subsequent testing by Durban Metro Water showed a better result. We will need to see how the August sampling turns out.
  • The sampling on the Ronald’s Kloof Stream just below where the stream crosses Alamein Avenue from Memorial Park is of great concern. It shows a very high E-coli count. Tests done by the Honorary Officers of Krantzkloof Nature Reserve have also confirmed this high count over a number of years. This is the worst stream for E-coli and the source is likely to be the soak away pits on properties bordering the stream before it enters Memorial Park.
  • The sampling on the Uve Stream showed very high alkalinity. Subsequent to and independently from the testing an illegal laundry operation was found to be contaminating this stream. Metro served the appropriate notices and the operation was stopped.

Download February 2013 Results

August 2013

Sampling took place at the designated points on 29 August 2013

All the results with the exception of the Springside Nature Reserve Site showed a deterioration – this may be due to the reduced “purging” as a result of the lower water flows as the reading was done at the end of winter. This would have the opposite effect at Springside where the lower “inflow” from the stormwater systems will have reduced the inflow of contaminants.

Download the August 2013 Results

February 2014 

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Sampling took place on the 25th February 2014.

The conclusions are as follows:

  1. The general health of the Molweni Catchment is not great with 2 results rated as VERY POOR, 3 results rated as POOR, one result rated FAIR, one result rated GOOD. No results achieved the top rating of NATURAL
  2. The trend seems to suggest that the river health is worse in the densely populated areas of Hillcrest and Kloof and that the river health improves marginally as the river goes through the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve
  3. The e-coli counts are generally higher than ideal and particularly poor at Memorial Park. This last mentioned point will be re-tested before August.

Note: A spokesperson from Metro Water and Sanitation indicated that we should not be overly concerned with the results at this point in time and that we should continue to build a trend.

Download the February 2014 Results

September 2014

The 2014 Winter testing took place on 3 September 2014. The Data Collection sheet was updated following feedback from the February testing and in particular the Impacts section was changed to improve consistency of measure between the sites.

Results for September sample indicate the following:
Site 1 had worst river health while site 6 reflected natural health conditions.
Sites ranged in health showing improvement as the water flowed through the reserve.
Site 5 as a tributary of the Molweni, had poor water quality possibly as a result of surrounding residential developments
River health at the confluence of the Molweni with the Umgeni was fair
Quality at 1 is possibly a result of low natural water flow so very little water to support aquatic organisms and ingress of subsurface flow from surrounding residential soak away pits.
Good diversity of organisms across sites i.e. many different groups.
Some sites, particularly in the lower sections of the river containing high scoring organisms i.e. more sensitive such as Stone Flies and other Mayflies

Download the September 2014 Results

Trends since project started

River health has remained very poor to poor over the 2 year period
River health at the head of Krantzkloof Nature Reserve has also stayed in the very poor to poor range.
Health at Memorial Park has been very poor to poor but shows improvement in last round of sampling
Uve Stream showed significant improvement in the last 3 sample runs to reflect 2nd healthiest section of the Molweni system. Note: This is an area where an illegal laundry business was found to be operating in 2013. The improvement may be linked to the closure of the business.
Nkutu section has been consistent in the poor to fair range
Krantzkloof Nature Reserve exit health has been improving over past 3 samples with a high rating in the 2nd 2014 sample.
Umgeni Confluence has shown a variety of ratings mostly in the poor to fair range. 1st sample of 2014 showed a significant improvement which then decreased into the second half of the year to a fair state.

Overall River Health and Water Quality appear correlated and is less than satisfactory. Closer investigations may be required.

 

February 2015

Now into our third year of monitoring!

Download the February 2015 Results

Summary of results:

Site 1 (Springside Nature Reserve) remained the unhealthiest section of the Molweni catchment while Site 6 (Exit from Krantzkloof NR) remained the healthiest. Site 2 (Molweni at the Interpretative Centre) showed an improvement in health since previous sampling.
The upper catchment sites showed an improvement in health while the lower 4 sites showed a low reduction.
Site 5 (Nkutu Picnic Sie) as a tributary of the Molweni, had poor water quality possibly as a result of surrounding residential developments.
River health at the KKNR exit remained good despite a reduction from September 2014.
Quality at Site 1 (Springside NR) is still the lowest – possibly a result of fairly low flow rates to dilute toxicants and contaminants, especially with the ingress of subsurface flow from surrounding residential soak away pits.
Good diversity of organisms across sites i.e. many different groups.

August 2015

Results for August sample indicate the following:

Site 6 showed the worst river health while site 3 reflected good health conditions. Site 6 has the best health (good) in the February sample and now has the worst health (poor) in the August sample.

Sites ranged in health with no obvious trend in improvement or reduction in river health. The point below the reserve reflected the worst river health of the sample run.

Site 5 as a tributary of the Molweni, was of a fair condition, an improvement on the February sample which reflected a poor condition.

River health at the confluence of the Molweni with the Umgeni was fair, unchanged from the February run.

There is a good diversity of organisms across sites i.e. many different groups.

The reduction in the health of the Molweni at Point 6 could be due to a number of influences although it is expected that the impact is human induced due to the sample points location within the community.

There is a good diversity of organisms across sites i.e. many different groups

Download the August 2015 Results

February 2016

Testing was carried out on 24 February

The testing revealed one of the anomalies of the miniSASS in that it showed good “river health” results at some sites but the bacterial counts were unacceptably high in 3 of the testing sites viz. Springside NR, Memorial Park and Nkutu Picnic sites – all three are open public spaces with frequent visitors which adds to the concern!

Download the February 2016 Results


DATABASE

The data from this project is being loaded into the National internet based data collection website: http://minisass.org/en/map/


Award

On 12 December 2014 the project received the eThekwini Mayors Award for Excellence – Biodiversity Category.

See NEWSPOST for details