As our nation faces its worst drought in a hundred years, children are leading the way in water conservation, one river at a time.

By connecting children with freshwater ecosystems, the Freshwater Research Centre is inspiring a new generation of conservationists in our increasingly dry country. 

South Africa is facing its worst drought in a hundred years and water scarcity is headline news. Heat waves bake our drying dams in one part of the country, while severe storms batter other areas. As we slowly begin to realise that we need to prepare for less rain, the writing is on the wall: we must adapt. 

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FRC blog images Feb2

Less rain means less water in our rivers, wetlands and groundwater aquifers. With less water in our freshwater ecosystems, we are in danger of losing some of the most beautiful, rare and unique freshwater biodiversity the world has to offer (our fynbos region is not only a treasure trove of plant species, but freshwater fish and insects too). 

More importantly, the resilience of these aquatic ecosystems underpins and supports our own resilience. As humans, we need healthy ecosystems (rivers and wetlands in our catchments) to sustain us. This is where the Freshwater Research Centre steps in. As a multi-disciplinary team of scientists, practitioners and educators, they forge freshwater innovations – from kicking stones in rivers to find a river-gogga community that can tell them about the ‘health’ of that river…to working hand-in hand with human communities to share water wisely. The FRC are finding the facts: “We need evidence-based answers to drive conservation strategies and effective water resources management,” says FRC director Helen Dallas.

But to adapt, every single one of us must find the courage to make a difference.  Our future generations will have to bear the brunt of adaptation, and will have to be stronger and more innovative than us.  Plus they need awareness and passion to adapt effectively, and as Mandela said, “A good head and a good heart [is]… a formidable combination”. 

And so, here it is - a very simple solution: Empower your children’s school to be part of the change, where kids are shown the liquid, muddy magic that is a river. One of the ways the FRC is enabling this is through building and capacitating a thriving and growing network of Cape-based schools in an exciting initiative called the ‘Living Labs Outdoor Education project’. This simple, cost-effective and far-reaching partnership, between teachers, schools, existing outdoor education initiatives and the FRC team, is designed to do one thing: teach scholars about rivers, in rivers. And the results have been surprising. 

FRC blog images Feb3

Learners have been amazed to discover bugs that ‘clean’ water, or been shocked by how much water an alien tree (Port Jackson, pines, gums) sucks up. These are the moments that drive our facilitators to keep going to one more school, to reach more learners. The lesson for the grown-ups has been that this nexus of science, water and experiential learning also reaches kids’ hearts. It awakens their inspiration to ‘see’ nature. Through the activities of this experiential learning – such as counting and learning about invertebrates (bugs) that filter water or fish or how reeds slow the waters down - the Living Labs team has already reached over 700 scholars and 30 different schools in just 10 months.  By helping to connect kids to the water of life, the teams are planning to keep growing the programme one river at a time. 

The FRC are honoured to be one of MySchool recipients and thank all the MySchool cardholders for their contributions to making the world a better place.  If you want to help connect children to water to life - contribute via  or if you think your child's school would like to take part in a Living Labs experience, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit our website: 

Writer credentials: Christy Bragg, Dr. Helen Dallas and Jeremy Shelton