Strengthening community resilience through participatory river health monitoring & management

Test and implement innovative & award winning river health monitoring tools to improve human health & environment

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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

GroundTruth in conjunction with the NGO WESSA

Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $500k - $1m

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 10,000 - 50,000

Organization type

  • For-profit

Secondary Focus Area

  • Water
  • Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

  • South Africa

Headquarters location: City

Hilton, KwaZulu Natal

Location(s) of impact

South and southern Africa: National and international project on citizen science monitoring of water resources. see:


Facebook URL For some of the work we have done

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

Degraded water resources in many urban & rural settings are increasingly polluted. Impoverished communities reliant on natural water sources often have no or limited access to information on the quality and quantity of their local water resources. This is especially prevalent in low income countries. Using polluted water resources leads to an increased health burden for at-risk communities, with reduced chances of work, attending school or growing food. This economic burden & poverty trap needs to be broken.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

Inexpensive citizen Science tools & interventions place the power to take action into the hands of the community. Tools are easy to use & data obtained are reliable indicators of river health. Data collected by communities can be loaded, by them, onto a web-based data-base, becoming immediately available through various social media platforms. Existing Citizen Science tools developed in a Pilot Phase in Southern Africa will be tested & refined at scale. New tools will be developed & adjusted to suit local requirements. The existing data platform (, the data repository & mobile phone app will be developed to accommodate results from additional tools & for different languages. Communities will receive training in the importance of river health assessment & monitoring, and on how to use the Citizen Science Tools. Once capabilities have been developed, communities will be able to train others in their use, creating local & shared value.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

11% of the global population lacks access to safe drinking water from rivers & untreated sources, and with diarrheal disease the 4th leading cause of childhood disease. Often the key cause of these issues are polluted water resources. This Citizen Science tools work in water resource management improves understanding of the sources & causes of local pollution, giving voice & agency to effect local changes to the betterment of catchment management. Socially, there is greater understanding of these causal linkages, less water borne disease, & environmentally, improved water resources - for both local and downstream users. Some local community members in South Africa have begun undertaking regular environmental/water monitoring and making real changes to improved water quality.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

Initial financial support to this project had been via 4 years of grant research funding (from the Water Research Commission), corporate contributions, and donations, to develop, pilot and locally test these tools and social learning processes. This application is to take the tools to scale and test & implement on a wider scale into Africa, and potentially other underdeveloped countries. Long-term financial sustainability is expected via trained community members able to be contracted to undertake this work locally - via government or corporates who recognise the social & environmental good of this work. In some cases these community members will be paid via social grants. In other cases NGOs are likely to support this work - as is currently already happening in South Africa

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

Research & testing in South Africa & other SADC countries has shown that the low cost Citizen Science Tools can be implemented across a broad cross-section of society. Innovation here is with NGO’s, school groups, government departments and commercial industry, as well as ordinary citizens, all potential users & beneficiaries of Citizen Science tools. Within this field most efforts are placed at treating symptoms of water pollution (health & environment) rather than addressing causes.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

As a child, I would visit a stream next to our home, I would drink water straight from the stream. I saw thousands of tadpoles: black, energetic & wriggling through the clear water. Today, over 50 years later, the stream has dried up, women walk long distances for water, which is not always clean & children will never know what they have lost. The challenge is to restore the home of the tadpoles & give back to our children a world of beauty & wonder. Nobel Peace Prize recipient Wangari Maathai. Our proposal is about responding to this call by Wangari Maathai (and others), by developing & using citizen science tools which allow our children and communities to re-connect again with this world of beauty and wonder, and the urgency to make the link between sustainably managed catchments, water resources and human health.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Upon recommendation from others


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