Dr. David Kahler Receives $1 Million Grant to Study Water Resources in Southern Africa

An international research team led by Dr. David Kahler will work to make one of the world’s most biodiverse areas more climate resilient.

Dr. David Kahler
Dr. David Kahler

Supported by a $1 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development, Kahler, an assistant professor in the Center for Environmental Research and Education, and his team will study water resources of the Limpopo River Basin in southern Africa, considered one of the most biodiverse natural areas on the planet.

The basin has had less rain in the past few years, leading to increasingly shorter growing seasons for farmers. Given scientific projections that the region will continue to experience less rain in the future, the region’s decision-makers will need to closely monitor water resources, 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, mining takes place in the basin and industrial water use is 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.”

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. Kahler’s team will provide hydrology training to local, regional and national stakeholders.

“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.

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.