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WATER QUALITY MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR THE OLIFANTS RIVER SYSTEM

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BACKGROUND

Water resource management occurs within a highly integrated environment, where water quality, water quantity and the aquatic ecosystem are all interlinked and interdependent. In the South African context this integration is achieved at a national level by the National Water Resource Strategy (NWRS) which provides a framework for water resources management between and within Water Management Areas (WMAs) and Catchment Management Strategies (CMS) at a catchment or WMA level. Resource directed measures (RDMs) comprising the Classification system for water resources, implementation of a Reserve for a specific water resource and the setting of Resource Quality Objectives (RQOs) underpin this framework.

Catchment water quality management must therefore be informed by the requirements of the Water Resource Management Class, RQOs, the Reserve, and the NWRS. Together these establish the water quality, water quantity and aquatic ecosystem attributes that are required to ensure a given level of protection for the resource, to meet basic human needs, and to meet the requirements of strategically important water users. The development of an Integrated Water Quality Management Plan (IWQMP) is a component that gives effect to the CMS framework, ultimately giving effect to the Class, Reserve and the RQOs set for a particular catchment.

THE NEED FOR AN INTEGRATED WATER QUALITY MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR THE OLIFANTS RIVER SYSTEM

The Olifants River System, comprises the Olifants, Letaba and Shingwedzi catchments, is a highly utilised and regulated catchment and like many other Water Management Areas (WMA) in South Africa, its water resources are becoming more stressed (both from a water quantity and water quality point of view) due to an accelerated rate of development and the scarcity of water resources.

There is therefore an urgency to ensure that water resources in the WMA are able to sustain their level of uses and be maintained at their desired states. The overarching Integrated Water Quality Management Plan (IWQMP) that will be developed for the Olifants WMA will take cognisance of and align with a number of studies and initiatives that have been completed to date including the Reserve determination, Water Resource Classification, the Resource Quality Objectives and the Reconciliation Strategy for the Olifants River Water Supply System. In addition, the IWQMP for the Olifants River System will be developed in collaboration with the team developing the Water Quality Management Policies and Strategies for South Africa.

In collaboration with stakeholders in the area, the plan will be developed to establish clear goals relating to the fitness for use of the relevant water resource in order to facilitate a balance between protection and use of water resources.

KEY FOCUS AREAS

The following key aspects will be undertaken as part of the study:

  • Catchment assessment;
  • Development of Water Quality Planning Limits;
  • Evaluation of Management Options;
  • Sub-catchments integrated water quality management plans;
  • Assessment and development of a Water Quality Monitoring Programme;
  • Compilation of an overall IWQMP including the sub-catchment strategies;
  • An implementation plan.

The following focus areas will also be fundamental to the study and will inform and support the IWQMP development during the study execution phase:

  • Legal considerations that inform the IWQMP and its implementation (sub-catchment and overarching);
  • External Drivers, Considerations and Influences to water quality and water quality management: In the development of the IWQMP for the Olifants River System, the multi-dimensional facets to water quality and WQM, such as international and transboundary obligations, water quantity aspects, water resource planning priorities, resource directed measures (Classification, RQOs and the Reserve), ecosystems, water services related aspects, waste management, water resource economics and integrated water resources management, will be incorporated and considered;
  • Stakeholder engagement, integration of stakeholder issues and technical aspects;
  • Other water quality initiatives/activities, integration/ alignment with other processes/ initiatives in the catchment.
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