Flow tracker for the Olifants River is the first of its kind. It enables near real-time flow and dam monitoring, and includes a weather forecast facility. It is designed for use by residents to improve catchment awareness. Although South Africa has robust water related policies with the National Water Act (1998) being applauded internationally, implementation – and especially regulation - faces many challenges. For example although a number of benchmarks have been developed for flow or water quality, monitoring these for compliance (especially in real time) is notoriously difficult. This is particularly true of environmental water requirements (known as the Reserve in South Africa) which are developed to ensure long-term sustainability. This is a critical issue for IWRM, and in the Olifants River where water quality and flow are severely compromised and likely to worsen under climate change.
Putting policy into practice:
The mobile app is part of AWARD’s work on supporting IWRM which started in the Inkomati and has now extended to the Olifants Catchment. Since the emphasis is in South Africa – and for AWARD - has now moved from policy reform to implementation, we emphasise that one does not simply “implement the Reserve”: rather it is the synergistic effects of a collection of strategies that together deliver the Reserve. These should be held in the catchment management strategy and include planning, water allocation, monitoring,regulation and enforcement. Given our focus on putting policy into practice for IWRM, these issues have been explored in depth by AWARD over the past decade (http://www.award.org.za/resources/). One issue has been how compliance monitoring can be supported in practice. Nonetheless monitoring in real-time is notoriously difficult.
Thus, we work with the proto-Olifants Catchment Management Agency, the Department of Water Affairs and other stakeholders, especially water users, on issues of good governance for sustainability. This version of Flow Tracker 1.0 is designed for use by the general public as part of our efforts to support greater involvement by stakeholders in IWRM. Through its use, we hope to increase knowledge and awareness about the Olifants River. Flow Tracker integrates data from 62 DWS gauges and 4 AWARD gauges, located across the Olifants River Catchment. This allows the end user to retrieve, chart and share near real-time data that is updated on a six hourly basis. AWARD is currently developing a method to simulate dynamic environmental water requirements in near real-time. This will be available in the near future with the release of Flow Tracker version 2.0.