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Water SA

On-line version ISSN 1816-7950
Print version ISSN 0378-4738


CAWOOD, S  and  VOS, AT. Water quality as bio-cultural screening indicator for the integrity of informal heritage sites. Water SA [online]. 2016, vol.42, n.4, pp.516-527. ISSN 1816-7950.

At informal heritage sites, a complex mutually-detrimental interaction or 'cycle of risk' between human, animal and ecological risk factors was detected where water quality is representative of ecological risk and cultural practices associated with the heritage intrinsic to sites are indicative of human risk. Informal heritage sites are therefore especially vulnerable as they are actively utilised, but not formally protected or sustainably managed. In South Africa, biomonitoring methods are used nationally for a rapid assessment of aquatic ecosystem health, subsuming a number of index models. There are six index models wherein water quality is ensconced. Of these the Physico-chemical Driver Assessment Index (PAI) is more complex and comprehensive than the others and therefore not conventionally the most rapid application. In addition, the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) was developed recently to measure the community health of people. Despite its complexity, water quality as part of the PAI was found to be the most appropriate of the available biomonitoring indices and, in this context, the most productive indicator for the cultural heritage-ecology interaction at informal heritage sites. This is based on the fact that potable water is such a fundamental human need and intricately interwoven with ritual cultural practice. The objective of the study was therefore to propose a biomonitoring model to explore the integrity of informal heritage sites where integrity encapsulates the environmental health and the authenticity of cultural practice as heritage. The authors conceived a 'bio-cultural screening' model and explored water quality as primary indicator, where water quality comprises biological (algal, bacterial), chemical (oxygen, pH, TDS, phosphorus, nitrogen, carbon, chlorophyll-a) and physical (temperature, turbidity) analyses. This method is then put forward as the Rapid Integrity Appraisal (RIA) for informal heritage sites, which may lead to the further application of other biomonitoring indices to these sites should a more nuanced exploration of the integrity of specific sites be required.

Keywords : biomonitoring; water quality; bacterial pollution; Rapid Integrity Appraisal; heritage; informally- declared heritage sites.

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