Dipping in deeper
Posted by Muntuza 2016, South Africa on 29 March 2016
Post related to Fresh water watch, Fresher Water
The catch of the day
The catch of the day

In celebration for this month water week, Muntuza grade 7 children decided to take action to monitor the Little Bushman’s River using a selection of citizen science tools recently acquired through the generous donation of Water Research Commission. Many children of the Wembezi Township and the surrounds cross this river on their daily commute to school, knowing that the river has been used for a number of activities like washing cloths and swimming, they were interested in finding out the quality of the water and the health of the catchment. As discussed in a previous lesson, river health has not just got to do when whether the water is drinkable, but based rather on number of factors like assessing the alien plant spread in the riparian zones, looking for signs of overgrazing and soil erosion as well phosphate and nitrogen levels ( Test kits provided through Fresh Water Watch), sediment load and looking at how our activities have impeded natural seasonal flow rates and water volume. This was a prize opportunity to put on their lab coats, and inspect the water. Arriving at the river, a short walk from the school, the children were asked to observe and reflect on the river as part of a bigger picture in the whole catchment. The first thing they noticed was the eroded banks and marauding cattle, a regular frequenter on this stretch of river. Australian Wattle, Bug weeds and other undesirable alien plants populated the banks and Water Crest had spread across the water surface like split green paint. On the Mini SASS, the children found bugs and beetles and one scampering crab desperately trying not to be noticed. This was reflected in a score of 5.5 indicating that the river was in a poor condition, largely modified by pollution and poor agricultural practices. The sediment in the water from the eroded bank gave us a clarity reading of 30 cm on the turbidity tube. Using the Fresh Water watching monitoring kit, the children learned how to use colour indicators to assess nitrogen and phosphate level, an indicator of the presence of fertilizers and washing agents in the water. Lucky the level read low with 0.2 ppm for nitrogen and 0.1 ppm for phosphate. The children learnt that water needed to be well oxygenated to host a variety of macro-invertebrates that form an integral part of the food chain. Without these little guys, the river eco-system would be unbalanced and their role as the cleaners could be lost. Generally speaking the colder the water is the greater the ability of the water to hold dissolved oxygen, using the World Water Monitoring kit, the water dissolved oxgen read 88%.

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