DID YOU KNOW?
The Upper Vaal, together with the Northern Drakensberg, Maloti Drakensberg and Upper Usutu, supports more than 13 million people. Massive interbasin transfers move water from the Tugela river in KwaZulu-Natal and the Orange/Senqu Rivers in Lesotho to the Vaal River, which carries it to Gauteng. The Upper Vaal is one of the hardest working Water Source Areas, supporting important commercial agricultural areas, power stations, mining and urban development.
Supplies water to
Alien Invasive Vegetation
Invasive alien trees that have spread through large parts of our country consume more than 2.9% of available water resources. In some catchments, water losses are higher than 25%. These losses contribute to biodiversity loss by crowding out indigenous species, devastating surrounding ecosystem.
Climate change is predicted to exacerbate risks associated with water scarcity and quality. Models show that the western parts of the country will receive less rain, whereas the central and eastern areas will receive more variable rainfall with more intense rainfall events.
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.
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.
Large Scale Cultivation
Large scale cultivation of mono-crops such as sugar can reduce the amount of water available in rivers, wetlands and aquifers. These crops use more water than the natural vegetation and so stream flow is reduced and they require fertilisers and pesticides which can end up causing pollution. Farming is crucial for feeding the population and creating rural jobs but farmers need to use water efficiently and sustainably to ensure that the quality and quantity of water left in the rivers can sustain the people living downstream.
Waste Water Treatment Works
Fewer than 10% of South Africa's 824 waste water treatment facilities are functioning as they should. One third are in a critical condition, leaking sewage into our river systems, causing a massive disease risk downstream and having a devastating effect on the health of the natural environment.
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