Using citizen science in monitoring groundwater levels to improve local groundwater governance, West coast, South Africa
Ajoge, David Omeiza
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Monitoring of groundwater levels provides a basis for assessing the availability of water in aquifers, thereby informing the decisions on abstraction and uses of such water for various purposes. It provides an understanding of anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic influences on aquifer, on temporal and spatial dimensions In South Africa and on a global scale, the lack of adequate implementation plan for the monitoring of groundwater levels has resulted in the lack of data and information on groundwater levels. Resultantly, preventing managers from making practical and appropriate decisions on how groundwater needs to be governed. Currently, there is a growing acknowledgement that adequate monitoring of groundwater levels depends on an implementation plan whereby citizens or local communities are considered crucial partners in generating data and information on groundwater levels. An important contribution of the thesis is the method used is aimed at understanding the current challenges in terms of the implementation of the monitoring of groundwater levels within the institutional setting and to what extent can citizen science lead to the planning of a more collaborative plan for monitoring of groundwater levels. Adopting of the Integrated Water Resource Management framework, in South Africa, further position citizens (community) at the crux of effective monitoring of groundwater levels. This is important to ensuring that groundwater is governed through a bottom-up approach, whereby groundwater resource is managed at local level where groundwater resides, is used and can be best managed. However, this position citizens as ‘citizen scientist” and further demand that they participate collaboratively with other stakeholders such as the Department of Water and Sanitation, Municipalities, Consultants amongst others. In effect, an adequate implementation plan needs to be developed based on the understanding of the involvement of citizens in science, in addition to collaboration between citizens and institutions responsible for the monitoring of groundwater levels. Such implementation plan must clearly defined roles and responsibilities based on the contextual institutional framework. Thus, the study making use of an exploratory qualitative approach, established current practices of monitoring of groundwater levels based on the institutional arrangement and determined current gaps and barriers in term of the implementation of monitoring of groundwater levels. Furthermore, the study and collective management to develop a collaborative action plan for the monitoring of groundwater levels. These drivers were identified as fundamental to collaboration in groundwater resource management, good groundwater governance and within the context of the Integrated Water Resource Management that drive management of groundwater in South Africa. The study identified the lack of adequate participation and collaboration between institutions responsible for the monitoring of groundwater levels. It further revealed that the current institutional setting contrast the bottom-up approach as anticipated under the Integrated Water Resource Management framework. In term of implementation of the monitoring of groundwater levels, challenges identified included the complexity of hydrogeological setting, limited scientific knowledge of the aquifers in West Coast, lack of adequate capacity, vandalism, poor access, lack of adequate funding and poor community participation. Currently, these challenges are aggravated as a result of the lack of collaboration as well as institutional voids due to inactive Catchment Management Agencies. Citizen Science have been acknowledge in hydrological monitoring, as an effective means of project design, data collection, verification of data, community engagement and collaboration between citizen and relevant institutions. Thus, the study recommended a citizen science approach for developing a collaborative monitoring of groundwater levels plan, as it doesn’t not only aligns with the Integrated Water Resource Management Framework but aligns and strengthens the bottom-up approach that is fundamental to Integrated Water Resource Management and good governance of groundwater resources. Based on the amalgamation of the citizen science framework with collaborative drivers, a collaborative action plan was developed. The plan outlined and defined roles and responsibilities for successful collaboration. The recommendations included the need for the development of the Catchment Management Agencies to enable the integration of stakeholders in the management of groundwater resource. Additionally, there is a need to develop a community of knowledge and the integration of Water Users into groundwater resource management.