Natsilt

The Civil Engineering graduates who are under the Natsilt Programme developed the posters below to assist rural communities to capacitate them on how they can be part of Siltation Management and bridge the knowledge gaps

The National Siltation Management Strategy for Dams in South Africa is a programme funded by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and managed by the Water Research Commission (WRC) that aims to develop and pilot a strategy that will guide, advise and ensure effective siltation management and related improved storage capacity of dams, especially the 320 state-owned dams operated by the DWS. The programme sets out to address reservoir storage losses experienced due to dam siltation, the accumulation of sediments and silt in dams as a result of soil erosion. The programme is of great importance due to the ongoing water crisis faced in South Africa, of which is exacerbated by losses in water supply in a time of increasing demand. The programme is set to run over the course of the next 3 years consisting of 3 phases:

  • Development of a Siltation Management Strategy for Large State Dams
  • Piloting of the draft Strategy, Models and Tools
  • Review and revision towards a final Strategy, possible models and tools

The programme consists of 4 sub-projects that will be integrated and managed as one programme to meet the desired objectives.

Strategy Development

This sub-project will provide a situational analysis, engage a broad range of stakeholders, map the drivers and challenges linked to potential solutions, and provide an up-to-date state of dam siltation management in South Africa. Key to the strategy development is the development of the relevant tools, models, frameworks, protocols, guides and plans to assist with the implementation and monitoring of the strategy.

Dam Engineering and socio-ecological systems

The aim of this sub-project will be to generate and test tools that will enable the alleviation of dam siltation through optimized catchment management as well as dam engineering methodologies (e.g. integrating both ecological and built infrastructure) and innovations.

Sustainable Dredging of Dams

Dredging has been recognised to be of great value given the number of dams in South Africa with large amounts of accumulated silt. Dredging has often been a last choice due to its high costs however is now unavoidable to recover lost capacities. This sub-project will develop a sustainable dam dredging model and protocols for a variety of “learning” dams and contexts. Priority sites will be identified through a consultative process to capture areas requiring intervention and that are representative of a larger set of dams.

Training and Capacity Development

The main objective of this project will be an empowered new cohort of skilled professionals and citizens to enhance and improve the efficiency of dam siltation management. This is to ensure long-term sustainability of the programme. The Programme will develop and pilot skills programme supported by an e-learning platform to enhance and improve the efficiency of dam siltation management.

The National Dam Siltation Programme (NatSilt Programme) has Civil Engineering Graduates as part of the WRC’s Human Capital Development.

One the graduates, Thulani Mahlangu shares his thoughts on valuing water. “Throughout the existence of humans, water has been central to their survival and prosperity. The importance of water can best be understood by understanding the interconnectedness of the dependents of it. The biggest dependents are humans. The importance of water cannot be overlooked as it has been stated that it is a potential cause of conflict in the future. This then means that humans need to understand the value of water. To understand the value of water, not only in monetary terms, but we also need to understand its systematic value on the biophysical environment and how that consequently affects the quality of human life. This quality of life is dependent on the state of water security which is a vital aspect of economic development. The development of countries and regions is based on the access to water resources as it is seen by how major cities worldwide are built near or around major water bodies, with Johannesburg being the exception. This development requires that any water management plans must enable the society at large to have equitable access to water resources which enable economic participation. This is through implementing the necessary water infrastructure. This access in South Africa is a challenge as there are still communities that do not have access to water services, and this is usually reflected by the stagnant development of these communities. In 2020 the importance of water was highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic and how people could protect themselves by washing their hands. This was difficult to do in communities which did not have adequate access to freshwater. The importance of water security in the example of South Africa, cannot be overlooked as one of the biggest economic contributors and water consumers being the agriculture sector. This is important as by ensuring that there is water security, you ensure that there is food security and economic participation.  Therefore, it is important to educate people about valuing water and how their water behaviour, including wastages, affects the whole supply chain. Water wastages are a big challenge as this consequently leads to some communities not getting fair access to water. Thus the value of water goes beyond merely quantifying demand and availability. As we commemorate World Water Day, let’s remember to play our part in conserving water and protecting this resource.”