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Development, health and
well-being depend on water
Why we must secure our
water source areas now

The Backdrop

South Africa is a water-scarce country with uneven distribution of rainfall. Our mean annual rainfall is 490mm. This is only half the global average. Further, high evaporation rates result in less than 9% of the rainfall ending up in our rivers…

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Coal and gold mining causes acid mine drainage (AMD) as water reacts with sulphides in the ore and rock, making sulphuric acid. Acid dissolves toxic metals more easily than neutral water, and these metals damage the health of people, livestock and fish in the rivers…

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Benefits & Outcomes

Maintenance, restoration and rehabilitation of ecosystems, ecological processes and biodiversity are the most cost-effective ways of guaranteeing the water quantity and quality flowing from our water source areas…

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Legal Toolbox

In 2016 the Centre for Environmental Rights commenced the ‘Securing Strategic Water Source Areas Using the Law’ project. A key objective of the project is to identify and prioritise all legal mechanisms available to secure legal protection for water source areas, barriers to implementation of those tools and strategies to overcome barriers.

This Legal Toolbox provides a summary of the comprehensive legal review undertaken as part of the project. It outlines a range of potential legal tools and measures that are available to protect our water source areas, as well as the benefits and challenges associated with each legal mechanism. As you explore our water source areas in the Interactive Map, consider the types of legal tools that may be well suited to each water source area.

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Extensive scientific research and assessment has provided robust evidentiary support for the identification of South Africa’s Water Source Areas. Notably, these were identified as part of a collaborative project by the Water Research Commission (WRC), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the Department of Water & Sanitation (DWS) and Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), with review and refinement by the CSIR and the World Wide Fund-South Africa (WWF-SA).

The Resources page provides a comprehensive list of documents related to our water source areas, as well as applicable legislation and regulations and useful websites.

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Interactive Map

South Africa has 22 water source areas spread across five provinces (KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Limpopo). The total size of our water source areas is 12.32 million hectares. A number of these areas extend and are shared with Lesotho and Swaziland; approximately 1.91 million hectares in Lesotho and 0.93 million hectares in Swaziland.

The total volume of water supplied by these areas per year is approximately 2 457 million cubic metres. The greatest volume of recharge is generated by the Southern Drakensberg, followed by the Eastern Cape Drakensberg and the Boland Mountains.

Securing Strategic Water Source Areas Using the Law is a WWF Nedbank Green Trust funded project.

The WWF Nedbank Green Trust, founded in 1990, has been bringing people and nature together for their mutual benefit for a quarter of a century. Our slogan, igniting new ways for people and nature to thrive, is our key reason for existence and we have, over the past 25 years, sought new paths, points of connections and solutions to ensure that people and their ecosystems prosper. Our projects have, throughout the years, had a strong community-based focus as we are constantly and consistently conscious of the fact that conservation cannot succeed without people.