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Area of Supply

The Olifants River Water Supply System provides water for domestic and industrial water use purposes, irrigation, mining and power generation. The system serves more than 3 million people, providing domestic water to towns and rural areas within the Olifants Catchment as well as to the towns Polokwane and Mokopane and their surrounding rural areas northbound and outside of the catchment area.

Planning for the Olifants River Water Supply System

The Reconciliation Strategy for the Olifants River Water Supply System was completed towards the end of 2011. The strategy had its aim to reconcile future water requirements with supply for a 25 year planning horizon, and to provide a framework for decision making.

Strategy Steering Committee

A Strategy Steering Committee has been established on 7 March 2013. This committee has representatives from inter alia national departments involved in water resource management, including the regional and national offices of DWS, provincial departments involved in water resource management, organized agriculture, relevant District and Local Municipalities, the Mining Sector and ESKOM. The Strategy Steering Committee will actively monitor implementation of the strategy by all role players.

Water requirements and availability

The accompanying graph shows the current system yield and the expected high and low water requirements until 2035. The system yield include transfers of water into the Olifants River Catchment from the Vaal , Usuthu and Komati River Catchments totalling 228 million m3/a for the seven ESKOM power stations within the catchment. The system yield will increase as a result of the commissioning of the De Hoop Dam in 2012/13. The ecological Reserve for the Olifants River Catchment has not yet been operationalized and it has been assumed that this will be implemented when De Hoop Dam reaches its full capacity. It has been established that the ecological Reserve will reduce the available yield by approximately 157 million m3/a.


The graph shows that without implementing interventions that will either reduce the water requirements or increase the water supply, the system will run into water deficits just after the implementation of the ecological Reserve (2017)

Water Quality

There are some serious water quality problems in the Olifants River Catchment. Localised water quality problems must be addressed by intensified compliance monitoring and enforcement and by reducing pollution at source. A separate water quality management strategy is being envisaged to address the water quality management issues.

The water quality in the study area however does not affect the management or availability of the resource (i.e. dilution is not required as yet). At many monitoring stations however, there is an upward trend in pollution. To ensure the sustainability of the resource, immediate attention must be given to the upward trend in pollution.

Supply interventions to meet future needs

The following interventions are necessary to overcome the expected water deficit from 2017:

  • Interventions that will reduce the water requirements:

    • Water Conservation and Demand Management for the Irrigation, Urban and Mining Water Use Sectors – phased in over 5 years for the former two sectors and over 10 years for the latter, all from 2013

    • Eliminating unlawful water use – phased in over 5 years from 2015.

  • Interventions that will increase the water supply:

    • Removal of invasive alien plants (IAPs) – implemented over 25 years from 2010. (A continuation of the programmes already running).

    • Groundwater development from 2012 over the next 23 years.

    • Treatment of additional decant water from existing and decommissioned and rehabilitated coal mines.

    • Sewage water reuse in Polokwane and Mokopane.

Successful implementation of interventions

DWS, as trustee of the country’s water resources, is only facilitating the process of water reconciliation planning and the implementation of the interventions is the responsibility of many more institutions. Without a concerted effort by all role players, water reconciliation cannot be achieved over the forthcoming years and it is therefore imperative that all relevant institutions work closely together.