Understanding water issues in the catchment

Categories: Community, Environment, Management Tags: ,


The catchment from which you draw water is stressed and in deficit. As the region has variable seasonal rainfall, the catchment experiences significant rates of soil erosion as well as flooding during the summer rains. In addition, the water in the catchment is of a poor quality due to faecal contamination from poorly planned rural settlements and acid rock drainage from an abandoned mine shaft upstream from your operation. The water treatment infrastructure, as well as other water-related infrastructure, is able to meet the demands of the catchment. However, poor maintenance and skills shortages often result in failure during flood events.

The policy and regulatory environment is relatively stable although not necessarily well enforced. This is mainly due to resource shortages in key departments. There are regulatory changes on the horizon as water quality standards are expected to be updated shortly. In addition, current improvements to the water sector funding mechanisms and the water service provider’s financial management structures will result in increased investment in infrastructure.

There is high competition for water in the catchment from a wide variety of water users and water quality concerns from domestic and agricultural users. There are, however, some strategic water users who receive priority for water access (as stipulated by the national regulatory framework).

Fishing is an important livelihood for communities situated downstream from your operations. A protected national park, containing endangered fish and amphibian species, is also located downstream along with the territory of the indigenous Bapedi people. Concerns have been expressed about the loss of their cultural heritage due to loss of land to industrial activities and poor water quality for the Bapedi population and their livestock.

Hypothetical activities

  • You begin by reviewing recent natural resource management plans, and discover that although the catchment is in deficit, climate change predictions indicate that rainfall will increase. However, demand is also expected to increase, impacting the water availability in the catchment.
  • You also discover that the Department of Environmental Affairs is initiating a program that will stabilize the slopes in the river basin, thus decreasing the erosion and limiting deforestation.
  • After consultations with the local water service provider, you discover that there are plans to construct water treatment facilities in the next four years, thus improving the quality of water in the catchment. This is essential as the local economic development plan predicts an increase in water use in the catchment due to expanding coal mining activities.
  • You also take note of the predicted changes in the water quality standards as this will likely impact your discharge licence conditions.
  • You visit the local land-use planning, economic development and social services departments. You also engage with local NGOs, academics and community groups to form a better understanding about who the local water users are and what their water needs may look like in the near future.
  • Through engaging with the rural communities in the area, you are able to better understand their various water needs and concerns over the loss of their cultural heritage. You learn that as they are currently not connected to the water service provider’s distribution network, they use water directly from the river. The wide variety of water users and the predicted increases in future demand pose a concern for you as this will likely result in changes in water allocation.
  • This fact-gathering process has provided a clear picture of the current and predicted water issues in the catchment area.


  • Consult with relevant institutions and regulating bodies
  • Consult regional natural resource strategies and plans
  • Distil information from site EIAs and ESIAs
  • Consult with internal biophysical and social departments
  • Conduct primary stakeholder engagement with local NGOs, community groups and academic experts
  • Review biodiversity assessments
  • Review local economic, spatial and social development plans