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Water and Rivers of life

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Water and Rivers of life

Unread post by KNP Spokesman » Tue Jun 21, 2005 3:50 pm

Dear Forum Members

Just a quick word on the state of the rivers and general state of the amount of water in the Kruger National Park.

South Africa is predominantly a dry country and has been for many hundreds, probably thousands of years. As such, the wildlife in all its facets has evolved and adapted to this.
Although rivers seem dry, there is actually quite a bit of natural water sources in Kruger which animals, insects, birds, plants etc have learnt over the years to find.

We have further found that by interfering in this process - by building dams and sinking boreholes - we have actually damaged the natural surroundings and are thus in a process to rectify this (I have placed an entire article on this subject on another thread) by closing the boreholes and by not building any more dams.

That said, weather experts (I can't spell climatologists, is that right???) have noticed that weather patterns follow cycles that are roughly 8 years long.
In Southern Africa, that means 8 dry years, followed by 8 wet years. Just to confuse me, there are wet and dry years in each of these cycles, but it all seems to balance itself out in the long run.
We are probably entering a dryish period and can probably expect a few empty rivers from now on.

I still find it fascinating that nature can adapt to these changing cycles all the time.

Don't worry too much about the dry riverbeds, particularly at this time of year, as it is pretty normal (taking the above-mentioned fluxes into consideration).

Kind regards
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Unread post by wildtuinman » Wed Aug 31, 2005 6:56 am

News24. Very sad indeed!

Hoedspruit - Hundreds of fish have died in the Olifants River about 15km from Olifants Camp in the Kruger National Park (KNP) as the river dried up.

Dr Thomas Gyedu-Ababio, the KNP's aquatic biodiversity conservation manager, said the fish are believed to have died from oxygen starvation.

Gyedu-Ababio found at least 500 dead fish on the banks of a pool in what remains of the Olifants River when he visited the site recently.

The 500 fish were what remained after birds had feasted on the dead fish, Gyedu-Ababio said. They were mostly catfish, yellowfish and tilapia.

Once the Olifants River was one of the largest continuously flowing rivers in South Africa, but at this time of year is reduced to a series of pools in Kruger, kept alive by water released from the Phalaborwa Barrage.

Balule Camp had no water on Monday as the Olifants' flow was so diminished.

Hippos are forced to congregate in the remaining pools of water. In the pool where the fish died, Gyedu-Ababio found almost 100 hippos in less than 500 metres.

In a reversal of their normal behaviour, Gyedu-Ababio said: "The hippos ran out of the water when they saw people," as there was not enough water in the pool to cover them.

Decomposition removes oxygen

The hippo have been living and defecating in the pools, producing an excessive quantity of dung that was now decomposing. The decomposition removes oxygen from the water, causing the fish to suffocate. Fish jumping out of the water in other pools was also a sign of oxygen shortage.

The Phalaborwa Barrage is required to release water for the ecological needs of the Olifants River, but also has to provide water for human use. Gyedu-Ababio said the flow out of the barrage for several days prior to the fish deaths was so low that the gauging weir in the park could not accurately measure it.

The barrage has very limited water storage, as almost 90% of the dam is occupied by silt. It is estimated that there is only enough water in the barrage when it is full for two to three days' water supply. In the dry season, the barrage relies on water releases from the Blyde Dam to boost the flow of the Olifants River.

Measurements of water flow at the gauging weir in the KNP show that the flow into the park is what it would be during drought conditions. The park has requested a higher flow from the barrage as the Olifants River was not reaching Balule Camp.

The silt in the barrage is to be the subject of an environmental study which went out to tender in February. The tender has yet to be awarded, the Lepelle Northern Water authority said.

The release of large volumes of silt-laden water from the barrage has previously caused fish deaths in the Olifants.

The silt is largely derived from soil erosion caused by poor agricultural practices further upstream in the Olifants River, in Sekhukhuneland.
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Unread post by wildtuinman » Wed Aug 31, 2005 9:58 am

Only problem here is that the dryness is not nature controlled exactly as the Phalaborwa barage dam controls flow into the olfants. The Olifants used to be a strong flowing river a long time ago.
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Unread post by francoisd » Wed Aug 31, 2005 10:39 am

wildtuinman wrote:That is why I am against the Mazzinger dam too.

I thought it was just said that the dam on our side is the result of the low water level in the Olifants??

As we are only allowing this small trickle of water through to Moz, and from the photo it does not seems as if the river is flowing at all, I think they have good reason to raise the level of the Mazzinger dam wall.

The same is happening to the Letaba river. Used to be much more water in it than the past 10 years or so. Dams keep water out of a river period. If the do not open the sluices no water is released into the river system. In the Letaba river inside Kruger there is already 3 dams, how many on the outside??

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Unread post by wildtuinman » Wed Aug 31, 2005 11:02 am

From the gorge towards Moz the water is much deeper than in this photo.
Don't ask me why as I had not swim there before. :lol:

The Masingier dam might also have the opposite effect(not putting money on it till this coming Sunday's 50-50 program), flooding the Gorge. And it might even regulate the level of water in the Gorge, by maybe draining it, to the point that the Olifants might even get diluted of water altogether upstream in the region of Balule. :(

This whole idea sounds very suspect. :roll:
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Unread post by wildtuinman » Wed Aug 31, 2005 11:26 am

francoisd wrote:
wildtuinman wrote:by maybe draining it, to the point that the Olifants might even get diluted of water altogether upstream in the region of Balule. :(

No problem at all. We can then let water from some of our SA dams back into the river. See, easy :wink:

The point I'm trying to make is that most people want to place blame on Moz for potential low water levels / high water levels while our (SA) current practices is just as much to blame. It's easy to say they should learn from our mistakes if we have many dams full of water on our side.




It will be a problem. The Phalaborwa barrage contains 90% silt.
There ain't enough water to wash it down the Olifants.
Hopefully they would have cleared that silt by the time the Mazzinger is up and running.
but the way things are going at a snail's pace currently in SA I have my doubts.

Both SA and Moz can be blamed for nailing Kruger's Olifants river...

We now have SA on the left using most of the water for tree plantations, agriculture etc. withholding water from Kruger and if they do provide it contains silt.

Then on your right in the blue trunks weighing in at millions of hectares we have Moz, drawing the only water still in Olifants from it.
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Unread post by francoisd » Wed Aug 31, 2005 11:36 am

If there were more water (without the silt) running on a regular basis from the SA side to Moz it might not have been necessary for them to enlarge the holding capacity of the dam to ensure that they have enough water in storage for dry periods (as are experienced at this stage)
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Re: Olifants river drying up

Unread post by wildtuinman » Tue Oct 04, 2005 11:57 am

chrisb wrote:Hi Wildtuinman

My question is still why can't the mines release water into the river.
In my 48 years staying in Phalaborwa this is the first time the Olifants stopped flowing.
The mines released water into the river until last year June.
There was always water flowing into the river.


Chrisb, that is a good question, but my guess would be that the mines' water contains silt too which damages the Eco-system down the line.
Who knows what other harmful chemicals are being released with it?
You say that the mines always provided water. It is great to hear from someone there in Phalaborwa self, who can provide us with clues.
Can you maybe try and find out for us then?

I don't know 100% how the system works there, but it seems like the only option to provide water to Kruger right now is from the barrage dam.
It did sound like water from the Blydepoort dam might help filling the Olifants.
Has the tender been awarded yet for clearing the barrage's silt?

Which ever way, man are stuffing up nature.
Now with the planned Mazinger dam I reckon it will only stuff it up more.
But many others disagree with me.
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Olifants river drying up

Unread post by chrisb » Tue Oct 04, 2005 12:09 pm

I am working at one of the mines and don't want to get involved in any discussions about the releasing of water into the river.
It is a very sensitive case and i am not allowed to speak on behalf of the mine.
DWAF stopped the releasing of water.
The water does not contain any silt, it is clear.
The water was flowing for years into the river.

I don't think they can clear up the silt in the barrage the problem is too big.
We are getting water from the dam in the Blyderiver higher up in the mountain now for years.

Can somebody from the park give us an answer.

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Unread post by wildtuinman » Tue Oct 04, 2005 2:24 pm

KNP Spokesman wrote:Dear Forumites

Thank you for your concerns about this issue.
I have asked WTM to place this for me as I am again plagued with internet connection problems.

The problem regarding the Olifants River flowing is pretty sensitive at the moment.
Many different organisations are involved but let us first look at the Act of Government that controls this - the relatively new National Water Act.
This basically says that those upstream of a river are responsible to those downstream of that same river to ensure that they get both quality and quantity of water.
An overriding factor is, of course, human consumption (people must have water).
In other words, those upstream of the Olifants are responsible for the water (both quality and quantity) that eventually flows into the KNP.

That said, we have impressed upon two of the key players of the Olifants Catchment Area (Department of Water Affairs and Forestry - DWAF and Lepelle Northern Water - the water supplier of the Phalaborwa Municipality) to ensure that water does indeed flow into the Kruger National Park.
DWAF controls the Blyde Poort Dam and Lepelle Northern Water controls the barrage.
I understand that more water has been released into the system after our request but we believe that these two organisations shouldn't have let the situation develop in the first place (if you take the new National Water Act into consideration).

We are monitoring the situation closely and have put in place severe water restrictions at all camps in this area in order to manage the river's flow from our side.
We are also in communication with both DWAF and Lepelle Northern Water.

Kind regards
KNP Spokesman
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Unread post by DinkyBird » Tue Nov 08, 2005 6:53 am

Katydownunder's sms received early this morning:

Saw something great this morning. Yesterday Olifants River was completely dry except for some remaining pools. Getting up this morning I could not believe my eyes. Water in the river and it even flows.

Now leaving Olifants rest camp we finally got a real river view :lol: Looks awsome. Katy


The Olifants River stopped flowing during the second half of August this year. Satara camp also relied on this river for its water and both Satara and Olifants camps have been using borehole water according to notices that were up in the camps.

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Unread post by Elsa » Wed Nov 09, 2005 2:02 pm

It is always so amazing to see how quickly rivers that were bone dry one day can start flowing again so fast.

In fact there are many stories of people having been caught out while crossing dry river beds and suddenly faced by a torrent of water that can be deadly.
A big storm far up in the catchment area is all that is needed.

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Cry, our precious rivers.

Unread post by Rooies » Mon Mar 15, 2010 3:40 pm

It was reported some years ago that the permanent rivers in Kruger are deteriorating to such an extent that some of them, such as the Letaba and Levhuvu, have stopped flowing in winter. This led to various research projects which have been undertaken to establish how this problem has affected the river systems throughout Kruger.

One of the researchers has proved that the diversity of the fish species in the rivers which stopped flowing, dwindled so seriously that eight species identified in 1964 are no longer found in the rivers. Another researcher discovered that common reeds are taking over the sandbanks of the rivers in question, which will seriously hamper the natural flow of the water.

Any updates or fresh news about this?
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Re: Cry, our precious rivers.

Unread post by Elsa » Wed Mar 17, 2010 1:36 pm

On our trip this Feb, I must say that the Letaba river did look very low for Summer and I can't imagine too much water flowing at all in Winter but in contrast the Luvuvhu river was the fullest I think I have seen it in many years, as was the Shingwedzi.

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Re: Cry, our precious rivers.

Unread post by gmlsmit » Thu Mar 18, 2010 8:45 am

What we should not forget is that the 2009-2010 rain season has been very good in the catchment areas of most of the KRUGER perrenial rivers well above average - this is all part of nature's cycle of feast and famine.

The KRUGER perrenial rivers : Limpopo, Levhuvu, Letaba, Olifants, Sabie and Crocodile.

The perrenial rivers are generally placid-flowing streams during the dry season (April - October), except for the rapid or narrow and the water is normally clear, except for the Levhuvu River which which is always turbid, even in mid winter. During the rainy season (November - March) when the rivers are in full spate they in character are much more muddy and turbulent.

The effect of pollution can clearly be seen for instance when the Olifants - (the most polluted river in the PARK) is flowing slowly in the drier periods, unnatural alge (the result of pollution) can be seen when crossing the bridges.

Change in pH caused by industrial pollution will most definitely affect the fish populations. Natural earth water is more alkaline (high pH) when the industrial pollution takes place acids (mainly sulphuric acid) enter the system and lower the pH.

Dam walls of course also intefere with the natural flow of the rivers and streams slowing them down only letting the "excess" pass through the system.

The reduction in the flow of the rivers cause the settling of the pollutants in the riverbed, increasing the concentration and causing bioacumulation in its inhabitants - the fauna and flora in the system.

Unnatural enrichment e.g. sewage causes alge and other vegetative growth, clogging the flow of both the seasonal end perrenial rivers. In the past the natural distrubution of Hippo assisted with the clearing of vegetation from the water courses.

Dam walls without fish ladders negatively affect the natural migratory process of the fish population causing them not to breed where they naturally should e.g. Tiger Fish and Eels.

Now the latest threat to certain species is global warming, certain species survive only in the cooler waters.

The increasing threat to indigenous animal and plant species in South Africa posed by development pressure, by changing vegetation, by habitat destruction, by the invasion of alien species and by commercial exploitation is an environmental problem of immense magnitude.

Manay creatures have been extinct in the doomed landscape of other countries, with the current situation in South Africa - all talk and no do - we are rapidly catching up with them.

A typical example of how rapidly we are destroying our nature is the coal mine and the planned power station at the confluence of the Shashe and Great Limpopo Rivers - our heritage a place we call Mapungubwe.

Everything possible must be done to save our primitive earth for the benefit of future generations.
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