19 December 2018 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Leonie Bolleurs
Water management reseachers
Marinda Avenant, Dirk Jungman and Niels Schütze are working on a project proposal for a decision support system that will assist local authorities with sustainable water resources management. Both Dirk and Niels are from the Technical University Dresden in Germany.

Climate change has a strong effect on the water cycle and is likely to lead to a multitude of hazardous weather events such as droughts, heavy rainfall and floods in Southern Africa.

The Technical University of Dresden, in Germany, in collaboration with the Centre for Environmental Management at the University of the Free State (UFS), earlier this year received seed funding to develop a project proposal for a study on the risks of climate change.

At a recent workshop, universities (including the Central University of Technology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Pretoria, Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the Namibia University of Science and Technology), Weather SA and the Global Water Partnership of Southern Africa) as well as companies from the public and private sectors and universities in Germany (Technical University Dresden, United Nations University Flores, Büro für Angewandte Hydrologie, and WISUTEC Chemnitz), collaborated to discuss the project proposal.

The proposal to obtain funding for the study will be submitted in May 2019.


Managing water resources

Once funding is obtained, the combined team will study a series of sites in the upper (Qwaqwa), middle (Free State Goldfields) and lower Vaal catchment areas. The aim of this three-year project is to prepare climatic, hydrological and ecological models as a basis for the development of a decision support system (DSS). This simple-to-use DSS is intended to assist local authorities with sustainable water resources management, as well as to address the risks associated with future climate change in their regions.

The study is titled: Threats of droughts and floods: investigating resilience to the multiple risks of climate change in Southern Africa and the study area was chosen for its suitability in terms of non-perenniality of rivers, residual impacts of mining, climate change, urbanisation, the poor quality of water, major modification of natural ecosystems, as well as poverty and joblessness.

According to Marinda Avenant, lecturer in the Centre for Environmental Management, increasing hazards can result in additional ecological, social and economic impacts and risks such as asset damage, yield reduction and decrease of livelihoods for the region. “We intend to produce a tool to support decision-making and risk-management by means of easily understandable guidelines to consider threats of droughts and floods under climate-change conditions of mining-contaminated, non-perennial river systems,” said Avenant.


Reliable forecasts


A web-based data platform to provide reliable forecasts of disaster risk and effective warnings of multiple hazardous weather events will also be developed to support resilient management strategies and to trigger risk reduction behaviour.

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