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World Water Monitoring Challenge

World Water Monitoring Challenge

Author: Tom Woodie

Rustenburg High School is located in the town of Rustenburg, the commercial centre of North West Province, South Africa. It nestles at the foot of the Magaliesberg Biosphere reserve from where waterfalls and wetlands provide water to feed the rivers and streams that flow into the town and the drier areas beyond. Water is a scarce commodity in this province and in some areas even the groundwater has been exhausted so it is essential that water quality is maintained and that the youth take the lead in monitoring and lobbying.

Rustenburg High School Takes Action

Forty Grade 10 learners from Rustenburg High School participated in the annual World Water Monitoring Challenge this September by testing the pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity levels, chlorine, nitrates and bacteria. Armed with testing kits, worksheets and cameras, they chose two sites for comparison. The first is a river in the Kgaswane Nature Reserve located adjacent to the town of Rustenburg in the headwaters. The second was the Dorpspruit a site in a suburb of the town at the intersection of Kremetart and Manuka roads.


This is part of the schools environmental actions for the resumecoverscv Eco-Schools programme which is co-ordinated at the school by Mrs Petro Vermeulen. In South Africa, Eco-Schools are funded by PetroSA and Nampak. This is the third year that the school has monitored the rivers through the Land Service group but this year other concerned learners also asked to join. Parents kindly provided transport realising that this is helping make sense of what their children learn in the clasroom.

The Results

Sedimentation and eutrophication were evident at the town site with the river having a proliferation of plant life blocking its flow. Many alien invasive plants had escaped from gardens and were altering the ecology of the river. Water quality was found to be good with total dissolved oxygen having moderate levels and pH being neutral but there were traces of chlorine and nitrates in the water which are a cause for concern. Excess nutrients could be entering the river from gardens and there are squatters living there that lack proper sanitation facilities and are accumulating rubbish in particular plastic bottles near the river. A dead cat was found in the river which will result in a health hazard as it decays.

The river in the Kgaswane Nature reserve was in a pristine condition with no turbidity thanks to a predominantly pebble bed and good reserve management. The water was similar to that of the town river with a neutral pH and moderate dissolved oxygen but no signs of nitrates or chlorine. The learners relished being in a quiet place with only the stream bubbling over rocks and no signs of litter. Many had never been to the reserve even though they had lived all their lives a few miles from it and vowed to bring their parents. The group was rewarded with seeing a herd of 12 Sable antelope grazing on the newly burnt grass.

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