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The overall objective of the baseline monitoring programme is to describe the natural and present state, including the natural variability, of those chemical, physical and biological characteristics of the river and its hydraulically linked systems (i.e. estuary, floodplains and groundwater) that are most likely to be affected by changes imposed after the construction of the Skuifraam Dam.

In detail, the programme aims to develop a conceptual model of ecosystem functioning both past and present, particularly describing the links between the flow regime and other ecosystem components. Since it is the flow-regime particularly that will be altered in the post-dam period, it follows therefore that the baseline monitoring programme must establish as far as possible the relationships between the flow regime itself, and those chemical, physical and biological characteristics of the Berg River that the IFR is intended to support (as defined during the IFR process). This is critical - simply monitoring the state of individual components of the system will not provide the information necessary to evaluate adequately the performance of the IFR during the post-dam period.

The baseline monitoring programme should also assist in predicting the kinds of change in each of the ecosystem components that are likely to result from construction of Skuifraam Dam and other water resource developments. These predictions would provide the basis for defining Resource Quality Objectives and refining the future IFR monitoring programme (e.g. variables to be monitored), or for defining management options in the case of impacts that cannot be adequately mitigated against.

Specific objectives of the baseline monitoring programme are to describe the following components of the water resource of the Berg River (divided into three components: the river itself, its floodplains and estuary, and its associated groundwater):
· biological characteristics
· hydrological, hydraulic, and fluvial geomorphological characteristics, including habitat characteristics
· chemical and physical characteristics
· groundwater occurrence and chemistry
· social and recreational aspects of the water resource (dam safety and recreational activity)