In order to meet the social and economic development needs of the region, the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) is currently assessing the feasibility of various water resource development options in the Olifants and Mogalakwena/Sand Catchments of the Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces.
The Olifants and Mogalakwena/Sand Catchments include some of the poorest areas in South Africa.
Unemployment is high. Many people rely on income from family members working in the cities. Many communities struggle to find water for domestic use. Development opportunities in the area have been few, hampered inter alia by a lack of water.
The area, which is part of the Bushveld Igneous Complex, is extremely rich in mineral resources. With the steep rise in the world demand for platinum and other precious metals, and with the government’s pressure on mines to use their mineral rights, several new mines in the area have been established or are being planned. This will bring much needed economic development to the region, but will also give rise to an increased demand for water.The mining sector has already spent more than R200 million on building the Lebalelo water pipeline from the Olifants River to the Steelpoort area to supply water for mining. This pipeline can also make water available to local municipalities to supply 86 communities.
However, studies show that the demand for water in these catchments will, in the near future, still be much higher than the water available from current resources.
More water would enable considerable mining expansion. This could bring about local employment, much needed economic growth and other benefits. It would also create the opportunity for water services providers, such as municipalities, to supply domestic water to communities.
Thus, the need to make more water available in these catchments is not only clear, but urgent.
Locality map of the project
The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) has to ensure that the most feasible options are selected. The most feasible options are those that are technically possible, will deliver the most water for the least cost, and will keep environmental and social impacts to a minimum. DWAF is thus currently assessing various water resource development options for technical, financial, environmental and social feasibility, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Development Options
These assessments investigate engineering solutions and technologies to make more water available.
For example, would there be sufficient groundwater to supply some areas? Can water be used more efficiently?
These studies consider the capital and operating costs of infrastructure such as dams, pipelines, water transfer schemes, groundwater pumping, the costs of mitigation measures to pro-actively protect the environment.
Environmental and social feasibility
The National Water Act, the Environment Conservation Act and the National Environmental Management Act require an EIA to show whether any options that remain after screening will be environmentally and socially feasible. The findings of the EIA will also inform the technical and financial studies.