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Managing water more effectively in South Africa: Launch of real-time flow tracking tools in the uMhlathuze River catchment

August 25, 2022

The uMhlathuze River Catchment in South Africa is located on the North-East coast of KwaZulu-Natal. In the past, droughts have posed a severe risk to the catchment. However, recently also destructive floods are threatening the area. Additionally, water quality is a major concern, particularly downstream. Partners under the uMhlathuze Water Stewardship Partnership (UWASP) are working together to tackle these challenges in a collective way. However, while it is by now widely acknowledged that an integrated approach to water resource management is needed (IWRM), the success of IWRM has been hampered by factors like limited stakeholder engagement or the lack of integrative decision support systems and tools for good governance of water resources, especially due to a lack of resources and data.

Gauging Stations UWASP South Africa
Gauging Stations integrated in the Flow Tracker/INWARDS Lite. Copyright: AWARD

The Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD) supports UWASP`s efforts for enhanced water security in the uMhlathuze River Catchment. On the 7th July 2022, AWARD and UWASP held a stakeholder workshop in Richards Bay for the launch of real-time flow tracking tools in the uMhlathuze River Catchment in support of integrated water resources management. The tools are supported by real-time data from water resources and users to assist authorities in making informed decisions on water management, while supporting stakeholder involvement in IWRM and raising awareness for a responsible use and management of water. The tools, when embedded in a robust and collaborative governance system, can support real-time flow monitoring at gauged stations. This enables compliance water monitoring and early warning systems as part of disaster preparedness and for planning and setting operating rules.

Flow Tracker South Africa
The current desktop version of the Flow Tracker. Copyright: AWARD

The work includes a desktop-based app as an integrated decisions-support system called “INWARDS-Lite” and the installation of additional flow monitoring equipment. It is supported by UWASP management and funding partners, including the National Business Initiative (NBI), WWF, the paper producer Mondi and NatuReS. The workshop brought together stakeholders from, or working in, the uMhlathuze River Catchment to the launch of a draft version of the “FlowTracker uMhlathuze” as well as the decision-support system “INWARDS-Lite”.

uMhlathuze Catchment Visit
Visit to the uMhlathuze River catchment and priority sites for the flow tracker, including the gauging stations. Copyright: GIZ/Lea Derr

Previously to the workshop, the AWARD team, together with UWASP and Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) representatives, visited the catchment and the respective priority sites, including the gauging stations, to assess their status in person. Based on the workshop and feedback of the stakeholders, both the mobile and desktop versions will be refined. The final versions will be available in the beginning of October. The current versions of the tools can be accessed via: