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Celebrating World Water Day 2020 with a parting song: IWMI-Southern Africa cleans up the Klip River in Johannesburg as a final activity just before implementing mandatory telecommuting

In many ways, it felt like a parting song – the final act before institutions in South Africa instituted ‘Operation Virtual Underground’ – the codename some are using for the new telecommuting procedures many institutions are implementing in the water sector. It was a grim rainy day. It was Friday, the 13th! Should we go ahead or should we cancel? In the end, the group of partners: IWMI, the Klip River Water Stewardship Initiative (KlipWaS), the South African Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), the Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN), Klip River Nature Reserve, Pikitup, Coca-Cola, Shoprite, and Plastics-SA, decided to acknowledge the few determined volunteers who came out on the day and conducted a river clean-up in commemoration of World Water Day.

World Water Day is well-known and celebrated annually on the 22nd March as a way of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater. This year’s WWD emphasized the link between water and climate change - adapting to the water effects of climate change will protect health and save lives - using water more efficiently will reduce greenhouse gases - we cannot afford to wait - everyone has a role to play.

To celebrate this day, several institutions partnered together to clean up the Klip River which passes through the densely populated urban area in the south of Johannesburg. The Klip River is one of South Africa’s major urban water workhorses and its basin includes the Johannesburg CBD and Soweto. The Klip River wetland area plays a vital role as a purifier of polluted water that flows into the river from the urban-mining-industrial complex. However, the ability of this wetland to perform this crucial role has been compromised and faces a number of challenges including pollution due to illegal dumping by the riverside. In an effort to raise awareness on the importance of this urban river, rehabilitation and conservation efforts, the dedicated group of just over 20 volunteers diligently removed heaps of waste illegally dumped on the river banks and which pose a threat to the proper functioning of the ecosystem. This event galvanized support from the government, the private sector, the research community, and civil society to advocate working together to help fight climate change with better water management practices.

Two days later, South Africa implemented robust and restrictive measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, and institutions and individuals in the water sector, now go virtual to pursue this mission.

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Water is a vital resource for life, and its security is a growing concern. The consequences of drought and water scarcity are projected to become more prevalent due to climate change. Yet, there remains a lack of an appropriate tool to address the issues of household water insecurity. Macro-level scales fail to capture the lived emotions at a local level. Such measurement is necessary for improved policy planning and program development. In South Africa, there is an increasing growth of rural and peri-urban population. In such a context, perceived emotions play a crucial role in bridging the gap between citizens and local municipalities. The developed bottom-up, micro-level household water insecurity scale focused not only infrastructure but also the socio-economic, socio-ecohydrological, political, and emotional aspects of human wellbeing.

Here is a sneak-peek through a 1-minute field video.

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Updated: Nov 21, 2019

Dr. Karen Villholth (IWMI) addressing the stakeholders during the workshop

Actors mapping their perceptions of water quantity and quality in the Hout catchment

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