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Water SA

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


BANNATYNE, LJ; ROWNTREE, KM; VAN DER WAAL, BW  and  NYAMELA, N. Design and implementation of a citizen technician-based suspended sediment monitoring network: Lessons from the Tsitsa River catchment, South Africa. Water SA [online]. 2017, vol.43, n.3, pp.365-377. ISSN 1816-7950.

Locally resident citizen technicians using basic equipment and Open Data Kit-enabled smartphones have collected flood-focused suspended sediment (SS) samples from 11 sites on the Tsitsa River and its tributaries, in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. In the highly degraded and gullied Tsitsa River catchment, existing modelled SS data were unverified and at odds with the results of studies based on dam sedimentation rates. Suspended sediment concentration (SSC), flux and yield data were required at subcatchment scale to support the prioritisation of community-based land rehabilitation initiatives in rural communal areas and to determine the relative contributions of subcatchments to SS yield at the site of the proposed Ntabelanga Dam. Approaches relying on researcher presence and/or installed instrumentation were precluded by cost, study area size, and the risk of equipment theft, vandalism and damage during high flows. Analysis of the quantitative data collected by the citizen technicians allows high-resolution SSC, flux, and yield data to be produced at subcatchment scale, which will be benchmarked by an acoustic SSC probe at a downstream Department of Water and Sanitation gauging weir. Qualitative descriptive and photographic data allows distant researchers to gain a real-time, catchment-wide overview of river and SS levels. This paper outlines the method, benefits and challenges of a direct-sampling approach that has the potential to address spatial and temporal challenges commonly experienced during SS sampling campaigns.

Keywords : Tsitsa River; citizen science; flood sampling; suspended sediment; citizen technician; Open Data Kit; catchment restoration management.

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