Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) promotes the coordinated development and management of water resources to support principles of social equity, economic efficiency and environmental sustainability. Umvoto applies these principles to all the projects we undertake.
Umvoto has been appointed by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) to conduct a High Confidence Groundwater Reserve Determination study in the Berg catchment (the ‘Berg Reserve Study’). The aim is to determine the groundwater contribution to the Reserve. The study considers groundwater quantity and quality requirements, to satisfy basic human needs (BHN) and Ecological Water Requirements (EWR).
Regulation 2(4) of the National Water Act (NWA; No. 36 of 1998) presents a legal framework, known as Resource Directed Measures (RDM), for the effective and sustainable management of all significant water resources in South Africa. The RDM consists of four main components including Water Resource Classification Systems (WRCS), the Classification, the Reserve, and the Resource Quality Objectives (RQOs).
Groundwater classes and RQOs have already been established for the Berg catchment, therefore this high confidence groundwater Reserve determination aims to assist the DWS in completing the RDM process.
The Reserve (i.e., the water “set aside” to provide for BHN and to sustain water ecosystems) is the only right to water in the NWA. It therefore has priority over all other water use and should be set as soon as the ‘Class’ is determined for each water resource. This is to say that the amount of water required for the Reserve must be met before water resources can be allocated to other water users. It is important to note that the NWA clearly includes groundwater in the definition of a “water resource” but the overall characteristics of groundwater sometimes require a different or integrated management approach.
The procedure for determining the groundwater contribution to the Reserve is divided into eight steps and is inter-linked with the Classification procedure. The “Classification” is the process by which water resources are categorised into Water Resource Classes (WRCs) that account for the ecological, social, and economic factors that are dependent on the water resource.
The Present Status of Groundwater in the Berg catchment
The project team have successfully completed Phase I (Inception), Phase II (Review of Water Resource Information and Data): Collecting and collating existing information and developing a project specific hydrogeological database and Phase III (Reserve Determination): Steps 1, 2 and 3 of the 8-step Reserve determination procedure.
The intermediate Reserve determination study defined 10 groundwater resource units (GRUs) (completed in 2016), while this high confidence Berg Reserve Study has defined 25 aquifer specific GRUs. As outlined in step 3 of the Reserve determination procedure, the reference conditions, present ecological status (PES) and the ecological importance and sensitivity (EIS) have been reassessed per major groundwater resource.
Completed study deliverables are readily available for the public and can be found here. The study is set to be complete by February 2024. To find out more about the study and IWRM, head to our website to read the full project description.