DID YOU KNOW?
The Northern Drakensberg is a transboundary Water Source Area (shared with Lesotho) in KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State. A critical source area, the Northern Drakensberg hosts the Orange River and the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park. The Orange River has the country's largest dam, the Gariep Dam (meaning 'great water'), with a capacity of 5,340,000 megalitres. Additionally, SA's largest Ramsar site, the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park (formerly Natal Drakensberg Park), is also located here.
Interbasin transfer systems
Supplies water to
Unsustainable land use practices pose a major threat to ecosystems and the livelihood of local communities. It damages flood plains, river banks and wetlands, reducing the regulating capacity of catchments and increasing erosion and sediment loads. This raises the risk of flooding.
Acid mine drainage from coal and gold mining areas has had devastating impacts on water resources, with acidification of rivers and streams and elevated metal levels making the water unfit for human or animal consumption. Many of our catchments are already heavily polluted by mining and an estimated R30 billion is required to clean South Africa's nearly 6000 abandoned mines. Only 8% of all coal deposits in South Africa occur in Water Source Areas. Coal is plentiful in South Africa while water is scarce, so coal mining should be kept out of these areas to ensure they continue to provide clean water to the people living downstream.
Fracking is a technique used to exploit underground shale gas deposits which involves drilling and the injection of fluids at immense pressure into gas-bearing rocks. The technique has received substantial attention for its potential application in the Karoo but few realise that large areas of the rest of the country show potential of holding significant deposits of gas, petroleum and other fossil fuels. Large parts of the Drakensberg fall into this area and licences are being granted to prospect for shale gas. Fracking pose a substantial risk of polluting ground and surface water, particularly when boreholes leak or fail. These impacts could be catastrophic to downstream water users.
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