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Since 1994 the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) has been investigating options for augmenting supplies of water to the Vaal River System (VRS). Investigations were originally conceived as the Vaal Augmentation Planning Study (VAPS) and involved evaluations of alternative inter-basin transfers of water from four catchments to the VRS. Included as part of the VAPS was the Tugela Vaal Transfer Scheme (TVTS) which, at a pre-feasibility level of detail, proved to be a favoured option worthy of additional investigation. This led to the commissioning of the Thukela Water Project (TWP) Feasibility Study in December 1996.
The Thukela Water Project Feasibility Study was designed to evaluate all factors
which may affect the viability of development proposals on the Thukela River to a
sufficient level of detail to:
For a variety of reasons, such as the changing legislative environment in water resource and environmental management during the course of the study, it became apparent that the TWP Feasibility Study would not deliver unqualified development proposals complying in all respects with the National Water Act, No. 36 of 1998, and the National Environmental Management Act, 1998. This has necessitated additional investigations, originally planned to occur prior to the commissioning of Detailed Design and Project Implementation. This led to the definition of a TWP Decision Support Phase comprising a number of inter-related components. However, in the past, it was thought that additional water would be required in the VRS in the foreseeable future. This is no longer the case and a longer-term planning horizon has been adopted. By implication, components of the Decision Support Phase have been modified to address only those aspects that can be considered temporally definitive. As such, the Decision Support Phase, as presently configured, comprises:
Activities comprising the Decision Support Phase will be managed by the DWAF, with the direct assistance of a Project Management Team (PMT).
Overview of the Thukela River Catchment
The Thukela River rises in the Drakensberg Mountains near Bergville where peaks rise to over 3 000 m amsl. The river flows eastwards to discharge into the Indian Ocean about 95 km north of Durban. Major tributaries include the Little Thukela, Klip, Bushman’s, Sundays, Mooi and Buffalo Rivers (the latter being the largest).
The Thukela Catchment has a total area of approximately 29 000 km2 and an undeveloped (virgin condition) Mean Annual Runoff (MAR) of 3 865 x 10(6) m3. The MAR expressed as average unit runoff is about 133 mm which is equivalent to 16% of the Mean Annual Precipitation (MAP) of 840 mm. However, MAP varies from more than 1 500 mm in the Drakensberg to 500 mm and less in the dry central regions of the basin.
Although there are a few large dams and numerous smaller ones in the Thukela River System, they are mainly located in the upper reaches of the Thukela River itself and in some of its tributaries. For the most part, the Thukela River remains comparatively unregulated. Water resource developments within the catchment are generally small and relate primarily to the needs of individual towns. The largest components of existing water development infrastructure are those associated with four inter-basin transfer schemes:
The Mooi-Mgeni Scheme was originally built as an emergency scheme during the drought of the early 1980s. Although it was mothballed when the drought broke, it has since been re-commissioned and plans are now underway to increase the capacity of the scheme.
The proposed TWP, will transfer approximately 15m3/s of additional water through the existing Drakensberg Pumped Storage Scheme into Sterkfontein Dam from the proposed Jana Dam in the Thukela River and Mielietuin Dam in the Bushman’s River.
Background to the Public Involvement Process
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