Skip to Content


In Numbers

The Amatole water source area is situated in the Eastern Cape across a densely forested mountain range. It supplies water to Bisho, Fort Beaufort, Grahamstown and Queenstown.

Size: 187 006 ha

Main Rivers

The Great Fish, Great Kei, Keiskamma and Tyume rivers flow from this water source area.

Did You Know?

  • The Amatole water source area is home to forests and mountains which are considered sacred by the Gcaleka people.
  • The area receives rainfall mostly in summer and autumn, ranging between 800 mm and 2 000 mm annually.
  • 91% of the water supplied to King William’s Town and East London is derived from the Amatole water source area.


Land Use (in %)

  • Mining 0.01%
  • Wetlands 0.39%
  • Urban 6.16%
  • Cultivation (irrigated) 0.86%
  • Waterbodies 0.38%
  • Plantation/Woodlot 10.85%
  • Cultivation (dryland) 7.62%
  • Natural 73.72%

15% Protected Areas

Only 15% of the Amatole water source area is formally protected. This includes over ten forest protected areas (such as the Hogsback State Forest and Kubisi Indigenous State Forest) and one provincial nature reserve (Mpofu Nature Reserve).

  • 10
  • 1

Threat Status

  • River Ecosystems
  • Wetland Ecosystems

River Ecosystems

Approximately 74% of the Amatole water source is in natural condition. Up to 74% of its river ecosystems are vulnerable but none (0%) are critically endangered.

  • 4% Endangered
  • 74% Vulnerable
  • 22% Least Threatened

Wetland Ecosystems

Only 1% of wetland ecosystems in Amatole water source areas are critically endangered.

  • 1% Critically Endangered


Up to 74% of Amatole water source area is in natural condition. Only 15% is currently protected and the National Protected Areas Expansion Strategy aims to protect approximately 29% of the area. A significant portion of the water source area is subject to private land ownership including approximately 8.5% cultivated and 10.85% plantations. What mechanisms are available to ensure land stewardship and conservation benefits in privately-owned land?

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.