The Cape Navigator

Seaside Community Newspaper

Cape Town

Advancements in River Health Monitoring: CoCT’s Scientific Services Now Better Equipped

Michael Hawthorne

In a significant stride towards preserving the ecological integrity of Cape Town’s water bodies, the City’s Scientific Services branch, situated in Athlone, has bolstered its capabilities to assess river health. Ten adept staff members from the City’s Water and Sanitation Directorate have successfully undergone accreditation testing, enabling them to employ the South African Scoring System version 5 (SASS5) testing method in rivers.

The SASS5 testing method, a field-based approach adopted by the City since 2000, sets itself apart by allowing the analysis of river health without the need for extensive microscopic examination. The method relies on the identification of macroinvertebrates, or insects, easily discernible to their family level with the naked eye. This makes the process quicker, cost-effective, and efficient in gauging the health of rivers.

The laboratories in Athlone now house cutting-edge technology, enabling the analysis of water samples collected from various sources such as rivers, dams, vleis, wastewater, industrial effluent, groundwater, marine, recreational areas, solid waste, leachates, treated leachates, and drinking water. Furthermore, the Scientific Services branch is equipped to monitor air quality across the city, reflecting a comprehensive approach towards environmental stewardship.

Councillor Zahid Badroodien, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Water and Sanitation, emphasized the importance of periodic evaluations of aquatic river systems. “Various ecological indicators need to be assessed for successful monitoring, and our SASS5 practitioners, with backgrounds in Environmental and Water Science, Conservation Biology, and Aquatic Ecology, are well-qualified for the task,” said Councillor Badroodien.

The accreditation received by the ten staff members enables them to conduct seasonal assessments of rivers in Autumn, Spring, and Summer. These assessments will play a crucial role in tracking long-term trends, indicating improvements or deteriorations in water quality across Cape Town’s rivers.

Councillor Badroodien expressed optimism about the instrumental role of the results in the long term. “These assessments will be vital for tracking trends, showing the improvement or deterioration of water quality in rivers across Cape Town,” he stated. The results will also be shared with the National Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) for classification and reserve determination of rivers, as well as issuing water use licenses.

The advancements in river health monitoring signify the City of Cape Town’s commitment to environmental sustainability and responsible water management. As the Scientific Services branch continues to utilize state-of-the-art technology and expertise, the city stands poised to maintain and enhance the health of its vital water resources.


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