MiniSASS Made Easy!

We hear about miniSASS all the time these days since the uMngeni River Walk made it famous. Have you ever tried to do one yourself? It is not as difficult as you might think, particularly now there is a fun and easy to use website to guide you. Conservancies in the Midlands will all host water workshops this Summer, with Penny Rees providing extra inspiration, and be uploading the data onto  See last year’s workshop in Dargle where we had heaps of fun getting our feet wet!

getting feet wet mini sass

GroundTruth Water, Wetlands and Environmental Engineering, through funding from the Water Research Commission, have developed the new miniSASS website and database, now live.  The website provides a dedicated home for the miniSASS community river health biomonitoring tool, to promote its use and serve the miniSASS user community by providing supporting materials, instruction, and news of the latest activities that have taken place.

The most important feature of the new website is the interactive map and database, which allows miniSASS users of all ages to explore their catchment, find their river and then upload their miniSASS results.  In this way, a public-access, interactive map of river health across Southern Africa will develop, with results continuously contributed by users as citizen science.  Users can explore all results, compare and contrast river health across catchments and in relation to land use activities, while connecting with others who are sampling rivers in their community.

mini sass geospatial database

Reasons for the changes in river health over space and time can be explored based on the land uses and other activities that can be observed on the interactive satellite map, supplemented by knowledge of their community.  Communities can use the information and knowledge to illustrate the plight of their rivers, and investigate pollution sources.  Land users such as farmers can monitor and self-regulate the impact of activities in their farming community. The more data the better, as communities and even authorities can look at trends, changes and potential pollution sources and solutions.

what have we found.res

An example of this is the 2012 uMngeni River Walk, where the team collected miniSASS samples along the way. The map below is an extract from the miniSASS website showing the 2012 river walk miniSASS results.

mini sass map

The results show the generally healthy condition of the catchment in its upper reaches, with deterioration around urbanised settlements and below major dams.  The collection of miniSASS data during the walk is a perfect illustration of citizen science, where a group of volunteers with no formal training in the aquatic sciences undertook a source-to-sea assessment of the river health condition of the uMngeni River.  Annual replication of this initiative and expansion to other rivers nationally, provides great potential to monitor and highlight issues affecting our rivers in Southern Africa. The diagram below represents the results graphically.

mini sass health data

The miniSASS website aims to take river watching to a new level, where river health data can be contributed by all in a fun and easy way, and with the results accessible to all.

Go to  and register using the Register link in the top right corner (you will receive a confirmation email to activate your account). Once registered (and logged in) you have access to the miniSASS results upload tools on the map page

mini sass register

The website provides the correct methods to do miniSASS as well as hints and tips for getting ready for sampling, river categories and a miniSASS checklist. Field sheets are available for download, where you will find the information and score sheet, identification guide and dichotomous key for miniSASS.

identifying things.res

View previous project reports that have used miniSASS, other educational resources and literature references for miniSASS. The blog shares the latest miniSASS news, where miniSASS has been done and all the projects that miniSASS forms part of. These correlate with the new miniSASS Facebook page now available, called Minisass – Mini Stream Assessment Scoring Technique.

Use the ‘Contact us’ form or send an email to with your feedback or comments. We would love to hear from you!

mini sass welcome

Key features

On the right of the home page you have easy access to the most recent observations which are clickable. Click around and see where you end up.  Hover over buttons and links for help boxes. Also on the home page are two awesome features, the “Nunu of The Month” and the “miniSASS Blog”. The blog reports on trips, walks and miniSASS collections by miniSASS users.

The websites’ many pages tell you how to collect a miniSASS sample, the things you will need, how to keep safe when collecting, as well as the explanation of terms used within miniSASS.

On the map page you will see the data upload buttons on the left, with help text beneath. Before adding data play around with the tools and familiarise yourself with the layers and the zooming functions.

mini sass layers

The Google terrain background layer shows you the physical geography of the area whilst Google satellite is useful to identify activities and land use in the catchment. The Google road map layer shows map features like roads and cities, with the Rivers and catchments layer only showing the rivers, streams and catchments but at greater detail. To upload your data, you can either click on the site by panning the map or enter the GPS co-ordinates manually. You are also able to add new observations (sample results) to an existing site, to create a history of results. Please take careful note to fill in all the sections i.e. the river type, date and the GPS co-ordinates.

As you tick the miniSASS invertebrate groups that were present in your sample, the miniSASS score is immediately calculated for comparison against your own result. On selecting save the miniSASS result is immediately represented on the map as a colour-coded crab icon.

mini sass data input

The website has various resources for download, and which will be added to over time. School and other projects using miniSASS can be submitted to for upload to showcase results and illustrate what can be achieved. Treverton College have got the ball rolling with a report on their “source to sea” walk of the Mkhomazi River earlier this year.

We trust that every school, agency and organisation already using miniSASS around the country will use the website, contribute their miniSASS river health results, and promote it to others.  In this way, a public-access, interactive map of river health across Southern Africa will develop, becoming a valuable resource to illustrate the plight of our rivers, promoting action.

For more information or to provide feedback please contact the GroundTruth miniSASS team:  033 343 2229  Anelile Gibixego, Simon Bruton, Mark Graham

2 thoughts on “MiniSASS Made Easy!

  1. Vaughan

    Please note the first link to the mini sass webpage has a spelling error (missing the the ‘i’ in ‘mini’), so does not lead you directly to the page.

    Great initiative! Now we need a ‘miniwetland-health’…



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