As the uMhlathuze Water Stewardship Partnership (Uwasp), focused on the Mhlathuze river catchment on the north-east coast of KwaZulu-Natal, about 180 km north of Durban, celebrates its fifth year, the development of a complementary, transformative catchment-wide monitoring tool is underway.
Uwasp, which was established after a major drought in 2016 and the need for a collective response in the region, has done significant work since inception and now plans to bolster the visibility of water information and data in the catchment through a new mobile and desktop application.
Believed to be transformative for the region, which includes Richards Bay, Melmoth and Empangeni, the Integrated Water Resources Decision Support System (Inwards) will enable the building of improved data and water management, embedded within existing monitoring stations.
“There is an urgent need to increase the visibility of water use in the catchment. Increased data quality and transparency will support improved management and improved management will help reduce water outages and support long-term food and water security,” said National Business Initiative (NBI) water and sustainable finance lead Alex McNamara.
Improved management and data means less water outages, more long-term planning capacity and water security.
The development of Inwards for uMhlathuze is being undertaken in conjunction with the Association for Water and Rural Development (Award), which is the developer of mobile phone application FlowTracker.
Inwards will strengthen key monitoring points in the uMhlathuze region to improve data quality and support use by farmers, communities, companies and public officials.
The mobile version will provide accessibility, while the desktop application supports more advanced analysis and decision-making.
“It provides the best of both worlds,” he commented during the seventh annual Water Stewardship virtual event.
The project, which started a few months ago, will be unveiled next year.
“It will take a bit of time, but we are well on our way in terms of setting up this particular project, which we hope will help to build further trust, leverage the great relationship we formed through the partnership and also give people the data they need to make even better decisions,” he continued.
Further, the licensing fees and data requirements, as well as maintenance costs, are small.
“We will be looking at upgrading certain key monitoring points and monitoring stations in close cooperation with local partners and national government departments, including the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), so that we really pinpoint some key monitoring stations where we do want to improve data quality where possible.
“For us, we feel this is the kind of systemic approach that will really help build and take our project to the next level.”
Uwasp was formed in 2016 as a river basin collaboration between business, government and civil society to address water-security challenges in the uMhlathuze region of South Africa.
Partners include the GIZ, NBI and WWF South Africa, along with Tongaat Hulett, Mondi South Africa and government stakeholders including the DWS and Pongolo-uMzimkulu Proto-Catchment Management Agency.