A study into the anthropogenic impacts affecting the Elands River, Mpumalanga

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dc.contributor.author Ferreira, Martin
dc.date.accessioned 2008-05-22T07:36:24Z
dc.date.available 2008-05-22T07:36:24Z
dc.date.issued 2008-05-22T07:36:24Z
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10210/448
dc.description.abstract Water is one of our key and indispensable natural resources. It plays a fundamental part in life (and the quality thereof), the environment, food production, hygiene, industry and power generation. Water is one of the major limiting factors in South Africa when it comes to economical growth and social development. In our country water is a scarce resource which is unevenly distributed both geographically and through time. As the demand for water increases, with increasing human populations and economic development, so to does the pollution of our river ecosystems.The Elands River is one of these natural resources that is under constant threat. It falls within the Incomati Water Management Area and is further sub divided into the Crocodile River sub area. This sub area is highly stressed, as it provides water for several human activities. The Elands River is a major tributary of the Crocodile River. The Crocodile River is a source of fresh water for several towns and is used by industry, rural and the agricultural communities (including tobacco farms). The Elands River in turn, is used for irrigation of vegetables. Both these rivers support a rich diversity of aquatic life. Along with its social and economical importance, the Elands River has immense ecological importance, as it holds great biodiversity including critically endangered biota. The main anthropogenic impacts on the Elands and Crocodile rivers include: · The Sappi Ngodwana Mill and the associated pulp and paper activities · The influence of the Ngodwana dam wall on the flow and water quality within the lower Ngodwana River · Nutrient loading taking place due to the treated sewage that is released into the river in the upper reaches and in the vicinity of the Mill · Sedimentation and flow regulation that is taking place in the Crocodile River, upstream of the confluence with the Elands River · And the agricultural activities within the Elands River system. The activities related to the Mill are the major concern in the study. The Sappi Ngodwana Mill is situated at the confluence of the Elands and Ngodwana rivers. The mill does not discharge effluent directly into the river. The effluent is however, irrigated onto the 514 hectares of farmlands adjacent to the Mill. The irrigated effluent has contaminated the groundwater in this area and the primary influence of this groundwater contamination is the deterioration of the surface water quality as well as, negatively impacts the quantity of water in the Elands River. The groundwater enters the Elands River through three springs near Ngodwana namely Fraser’s eye, Northern eye and Eye X. The groundwater from both Fraser’s eye and Eye X has been contaminated with calcium, potassium, magnesium, sulphates and most importantly chlorides. All these substances contribute to the increase in conductivity in the Elands River, which in turn may have a possible impact on the ecological integrity of the system. The pulp and paper industry is a large consumer of water and few regrettable incidents over the years have given the industry a reputation as a major water polluter. The industry’s management of water is,however, of world class and every attempted is made to manage the environment in a sustainable manner. This study aims to assess the impact of these anthropogenic activities on the associated aquatic ecosystems. Assessing the impact of anthropogenic activities on the aquatic environments, like the Elands River, has in the past been based mainly on the assessment of water quality. Earlier management of water resources has thus been based on the potability of water. Over the last decade management initiatives have expanded to include domestic, agricultural, recreational and most importantly instream (fish, invertebrates etc.) users. It has become common practise to use aquatic biota to assess the impacts of human activities of freshwater resources. The reason for this is that animals and plants can provide a long–term integrated reflection of water quality, quantity, habitat quality and other environmental conditions. Water and sediment quality was assessed by applying standard techniques and protocols. Additionally historical water quality data was obtained from the Sappi Ngodwana Mill and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. Habitat quality was assessed by implementation of habitat quality indices. This included that Integrated Habitat Assessment Index and the Habitat Quality Index. The vegetation at each site was identified in the field with the assistance provided by the members of the Elands River Valley Conservancy and using various field guides and the riparian zone was then demarked. The integrity of the fish community was assessed by implementing the Fish Assemblage Integrity Index and the Fish Response Assessment Index. The integrity of the aquatic macro invertebrate communities was also assessed. This was achieved through use of the South African Scoring System and the Macro Invertebrate Response Assessment Index. Finally, spatial and/or temporal trends were assessed by implementation of various multi variate statistical procedures. en
dc.description.sponsorship Prof. J.H.J. Van Vuren Prof. V. Wepene en
dc.language.iso en en
dc.subject Ecological disturbances en
dc.subject Elands River (South Africa) en
dc.title A study into the anthropogenic impacts affecting the Elands River, Mpumalanga en
dc.type Thesis en

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