Supported by a $1 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development, Kahler and his team will study the water resources of the Limpopo River Basin in southern Africa, considered one of the most biodiverse natural areas on the planet.
The basin has experienced shorter rainy seasons in the past few years, leading to increasingly shorter growing seasons for farmers. Given scientific projections that the region will continue to see less rain in the future, it will be essential for the region's decision makers to monitor water resources in the basin, Kahler said.
At more than 160,000 square miles, the Limpopo River Basin crosses Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique and is home to more than 18 million people living in both rural and urban areas. In addition to agriculture, the basin is home to businesses in urban areas and mining, with industrial water use growing rapidly.
"One of the key parts of our work will be to convene stakeholders in the region to discuss water resource issues," Kahler said. "Water usage in one area of the basin can affect other regions, so having the right data and communicating effectively will be essential to helping ensure everyone has the water they need."
An assistant professor in Duquesne's Center for Environmental Research and Education, Kahler and his team will use satellites to measure river flow and water quality, specialized geophysical instruments to measure groundwater flow, and satellites and weather stations to monitor rainfall.
"Given that the region has experienced severe droughts in the last decade, this data is needed to help make communities in the basin more resilient," Kahler said, adding that the team will provide hydrology training to local, regional and national stakeholders.
In March, Kahler and his team visited the basin to install new sensors in critical watersheds to measure changes in water quality. The team will return to the region in August to meet with key stakeholders to discuss their water data needs.
Dr. Joshua Edokpayi, faculty at the University of Venda in South Africa, and Dr. Kevin Rose, faculty at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), will serve as co-investigators for the project. The team will also include several graduate students from Duquesne, Venda and RPI.