Identification, Delineation and Importance of the Strategic Water Source Areas of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland for Surface Water and Groundwater

Expanded Title

Strategic Water Source Areas are defined as areas of land that either:

(a) supply a disproportionate quantity of mean annual surface water runoff in relation to their size; or

(b) have high groundwater recharge and where the groundwater forms a nationally important resource; or

(c) areas that meet both criteria (a) and (b).

There are 22 national-level SWSAs for surface water (SWSA-sw) and 37 for groundwater (SWSA-gw).

The SWSA-sw in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland occupy 10% of the land area and generate 50% of the mean annual runoff. They support at least 60% of the population, 70% of the national economic activity, and provide about 70% of the water used for irrigation.

The SWSA-gw cover 9% of the area of South Africa, account for 15% of the recharge, 46% of the groundwater used by agriculture and 47% of the groundwater used by industry.

Only 11% of the SWSAs is under formal protection, informal protected areas add another 1%, and several have no protected areas at all, including the Upper Vaal. Most of the SWSAs is still under natural vegetation but some have extensive areas under cultivation or plantations and many include towns and even portions of cities.

The protection and management of the multi-functional landscapes that comprise Strategic Water Source Areas is a responsibility that is shared among many government departments, the private sector, and even the public at large.

The SWSAs should be valued by all for the vital role they play in sustaining the well-being of the people and the economies of South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho.

WRC Report Number TT 754-1-18 was authored by Le Maitre D; Seyler H; Holland M; Smith-Adao L; Nel J; Maherry A; and Witthuser K.

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