WRC PHA masters bursary opportunity

Masters Bursary , Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Stellenbosch University: Use of Social GIS and participatory mapping to facilitate an ethics-based approach to Adaptive Collaborative Water Governance on the Cape Flats Aquifer: A case study in the Philippi Horticultural Area

Be part of an exciting proactive project to use Geoinformatics to support a community based project to achieve multi-stakeholder agreement on water issues in the Phillipi Horticultural Area (PHA). The broader project looks at The Ethics of Adaptive Collaborative Water Governance on the Cape Flats Aquifer: A case study in the Philippi Horticultural Area (Water Research Commission, WRC Project Number : 2020/2021-00097). In order to achieve equitable and ethical access to water, the complexities of water governance need to be addressed. This involves aligning objectives and technically manageable resources (natural and otherwise) with subjective understandings of reality informed by the historical and geographic context in which water governance needs to occur. Today, challenges to water governance are compounded by growing climate uncertainty; a historical reliance on top-down or control oriented implementation of water governance policy; and strategies which are often unsuccessful or derailed because of a lack of connection and mutual understanding between the stakeholders, the government, and the resource being governed.


The Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA), a peri-urban agricultural enclave within the confines of the urban sprawl on the Cape Flats, is sustained by the Cape Flats Aquifer. The Cape Flats Aquifer (CFA) is an unconfined sand aquifer underlying the Cape Flats area of Cape Town. In the past the CFA was recharged by runoff to the Cape Flats filtered through rivers, marshes and sand dunes. Urban expansion over the aquifer, however, has now had a significant impact on the hydrological system. Since the recent drought, the CFA is being developed by the City of Cape Town (CoCT) as a source for potable supply. In addition, during periods of high rainfall intensity, the shallow water table in the PHA and misused surface drainage systems is a cause of flooding, with the greatest impacts experienced in lower income areas. The polluted and poorly maintained channels intended to guide floodwaters and reduce damage to surrounding agricultural land are both a resource in the PHA and a hazard which requires proper management. The Stellenbosch University Water Institute conducted an ethics survey on water issues in the PHA. The research study, that was completed early this year, lead to the creation of the PHA People's Forum - one of the first collaborative stakeholder forums in the PHA.


The research of the advertised project will start with water pollution workshops with the stakeholders of the newly formed Intergovernmental forum and PHA People's Forum where water pollution information will be collected and sites of water pollution identified. This will be mapped using GIS and existing water quality data. This is to be followed by workshops that analyse the potential areas of contamination and flooding, developing a series of both physical, social and environmental indicators, to measure improved environmental and better social conditions of communities living in the PHA. Given the collaborative and context-dependent nature of the process, the exact nature of these indicators can only be determined after the various governmental, non-governmental, community and commercial role-players have interacted with the proposed community-based water monitoring plan regularly and continuously. However, it is highly likely given recent concerns on illegal dumping in the canals and the proliferation of boreholes in the PHA that these two issues will form an integral part of the research process.

The advertised masters project will

  1. participate in workshops to collaboratively identify data to be mapped by the student and communities of issues related to pollution sources, as well as indicators of success of resolving the issues;
  2. design a data capture approach that uses cellphone technology, such as Kobo Toolbox;
  3. design a web-enabled tool and automated analyses that produces preliminary analysis and monitoring of the collected data, such as maps and graphs of dumping sites, water quality, and other issues emanating from the workshops,
  4. design a data flow procedure from data collected on cellphones to this website facility;
  5. run a test of whether the indicators are being viewed by target users, (affecting behaviour – might be a separate study, e.g. of how have ethics/core values around water and land changed) and whether it is impacting action by CoCT Storm Water Management (for instance). Develop participatory GIS approaches and tools.

Project Duration: The duration of the project is 2 years commencing from 1 September 2020. The masters will be based in Stellenbosch University’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, and the Stellenbosch University Water Institute, under the supervision of A/Prof Helen de Klerk, Dr Zahn Munch, and Dr Leanne Seeliger.

 Bursary value: R160 000 available in 8 instalments payable on specific deliverables over the two yearsincluding papers submitted for publication.

 Eligibility: Possession of a completed Honours (BSc or BA) is essential for the registration of a MSc/MA Geoinformatics/Environmental Studies (please see the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies admission guidelines here https://www0.sun.ac.za/geography/programmes-courses/masters/). Advanced geoinformatics skills is required. Experience in web-based GIS tools if preferable. Experience of or a demonstrated interest in participatory research is highly advantageous. In accordance with WRC policy, preference will be given to suitably qualified South African nationals, especially from designated groups, but candidates from outside South Africa are also encouraged to apply if they possess relevant skills.

Applications must include the following, combined into a single pdf:
A motivating letter outlining your suitability, skills and interests, including your ideas for approaching the research and which aspects of the project you are particularly interested in. Your curriculum vitae including details of two contactable academic references; and a copy of your academic record.

 Applications must be submitted electronically to Helen de Klerk (hdeklerk@sun.ac.za) by no later than 15 August 2020.

 Dr Zahn Münch  |  PhD  |  Pr. Sci. Nat. 400332/15

Lecturer: Department Geography and Environmental Studies  |  Lektor: Departement Geografie en Omgewingstudie 

Programme coordinator: BSc Geoinformatics  |  Program koördineerder: BSc Geoinformatika

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences  |  Fakulteit Lettere en Sosiale Wetenskappe

e: zmunch@sun.ac.za  |  t: +27 21 808 9101  |  a: Chamber of Mines Building, Ryneveld Street  |  Kamer van Mynwese Gebou, Ryneveldstraat


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