Enabling community empowerment through citizen science: A demonstration on water quality sampling in the Lotus Canal

A scientist taking the workers through some best practice safety techniques for water sampling

Building on the already strong relationship between The Umvoto Foundation (TUF) and the Edith Stephens Nature Reserve (ESNR), TUF was asked to do a demonstration on water quality sampling in the Lotus Canal. The demonstration was meant for the ESNR’s employees that form part of their Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP).  

The ESNR’s EPWP workers do regular litter clean ups on either side of the Lotus Canal as well as vegetation propagation on its banks. This sparked their interest in the water quality of the Lotus Canal and resulted in the workers taking on the initiative of collecting water samples. The purpose of the sampling is to keep a record of the odour, colour and turbidity (murkiness) of the canal. Given the polluted nature of the canal, Fahad Aziz and Rebecca Stephenson, collaborators of TUF, provided some safety tips when sampling, as well as best practice sampling techniques. This is to ensure the health and safety of the workers and to ensure the integrity of the samples.

The EPWP workers live in areas close to the canal and therefore have a vested interest in the water quality monitoring efforts, with the hope of seeing progress in improved water quality within the Lotus Canal. This act of citizen science plays a major role in getting communities involved in trying to re-vitalise their surrounding environment.

The collection of data from the local community also increases participation in research, provides new sources of information, knowledge and perspectives, and increases citizen engagement in scientific research. This is one of the cornerstones of TUF’s work, whereby we provide accessible courses for community members to develop a greater understanding of the environment. Through participation in our educational programmes, participants are empowered and have the skills to mobilise within their own communities and become their champions for improving their environments.