GIS Water Risk Assessment Tool

Blue North Sustainability was engaged by a UK importer to develop a GIS-based water risk assessment tool. The main purpose of the tool is to provide a better understanding of the potential water risks faced by South African fruit farmers within their supply chain.

In addition to South Africa being a naturally water-stressed country, the current drought has highlighted the need to better understand and manage water resources in the future. The agricultural sector is by far the largest consumer of water in South Africa (at just over 60% of total consumption). The sector is thus a primary governmental focus point, with likely drives to tighten water policy and the policing of water use, in order to increase the efficiency of allocation and utilisation.

The GIS tool reports on a set of publically-available water and water-related parameters, where the information is displayed as user-friendly interactive “layers” on a map. The user can toggle between these layers to customize the information displayed, navigate, and zoom in and out, etc. From all of this information, we are able to draw up an overall ‘water risk rating’ for each farm.

The layers include:

  • Farm boundaries
  • Town and inform settlement boundaries
  • Waste water work sites
  • Aquifer type
  • Aquifer water volume [litres per second]
  • Ground water quality [millisiemens/metre]
  • Ground water vulnerability
  • Average depth to ground water [m]
  • Average rainfall [mm/annum]
  • Average evaporation [mm/annum]
  • Ecological status of rivers on the farm
  • Soil type
  • Land cover type, etc.

See Figure 1 below for a screen shot of the GIS tool in Google Earth.

The GIS water risk assessment tool developed for a UK importer

The GIS water risk assessment tool developed for a UK importer


The tool is valuable:

  • to farmers who would like to visually interrogate and strategically address their unique water risks and opportunities;
  • can be used by farmers and their supply chain partners to collaborate and reduce potential water-related risks in the supply chain; and
  • informing water policy decisions within global agricultural value chains.