Lessons learnt

The uMngeni catchment has been under drought conditions for the last two years. During this time the focus has been on the provision of water for today and the month to come, with little attention being paid to further ideas and issues. With the recent good rains and the drought restrictions being lifted, the focus can shift from coping to planning and adaptation for the future. ​The lesson learnt from this is that communication with decision makers around long-term planning and adaptation under crisis conditions is problematic. Provision of long-term information related to planning and adaptation needs to happen during non-crisis times.

Importance and relevance of adaptation

To date there is very limited information available on the impacts of future climate on water quality for South African catchments, despite the recognition and acceptance of the significant potential impact on water quality. This project through the production of CII’s relevant to water quality assessment for the uMngeni catchment will partially address this and allow for adaptation planning to be undertaken. This adaptation plan is envisioned to be through the identification of critical areas which need to preserved to ensure good water quality, and identification of hotspot areas of poor water quality where immediate intervention is required.   Without intervention, the eutrophication of the large reservoirs and decline of the health of the rivers in the catchment will continue and possibly be exacerbated due to a changing climate, placing the water supply of the communities at risk and increasing the water treatment costs.

Pros and cons or cost-benefit analysis of climate adaptation

W​ithout intervention and improvement of the water quality in the uMngeni catchment, the pressure placed on the limited water treatment facilities will continue to escalate as will the cost of treating the water. Declines in river health will cause the migration of emerging farmers to the urban areas where infrastructure is already under pressure. Water-borne diseases will likely increase, overloading an already stretched primary health care system. Service delivery protests related to water provisioning and sanitation have already manifested in the catchment. Any further decline in the resource may exacerbate the already volatile situation.

Policy aspects

By identifying hotspot areas of concern, those economic land use activities upstream can be monitored and regulated. Further to this, the linking of nutrient loading and concentrations to activities on the landscape can assist in land use planning. 

Centre for Water Resources Research, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Umgeni Water

Poster displayed at the Kick–Off meeting, 7/8 September 2017, Norrköping, Sweden