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Eastern Cape

In Numbers

Set at the southernmost portion of South Africa’s largest mountain range, the Eastern Cape Drakensberg water source area feeds into the Orange River and supplies water to Umtata and Queenstown.

Size: 1 636 789 ha

The Eastern Cape Drakensberg stretches approximately 1 636 789 hectares. It is the second largest of South Africa’s water source areas.

Main Rivers

The main rivers which flow from the Eastern Cape Drakensberg include Mzimvubu, Orange, Bokspruit and Mthatha rivers. Free-flowing rivers that flow from this water source area include the Kobonqaba, iNxaxo, Qhora, Shixini, Nqabarha and Mncwasa rivers.

Did You Know?

  • A large dam is being planned on the Mzimvubu River at an estimated cost of R20 billion.
  • South Africa has 62 free-flowing rivers (long stretch of rivers that haven’t been dammed), 27 of which are in the Eastern Cape. This water source area feeds into six of these free-flowing rivers.
  • The Eastern Cape Drakensberg water source area provides 100% of Umtata’s water.


Land Use (in %)

  • Mining 0.01%
  • Wetlands 1.49%
  • Urban 6.58%
  • Cultivation (irrigated) 0.02%
  • Waterbodies 0.22%
  • Plantation/Woodlot 3.64%
  • Cultivation (dryland) 12.99%
  • Natural 75.06%

Protected Areas

There are no protected areas in this water source area. Shockingly, this water source area has no protection (0%).

Threat Status

  • River Ecosystems
  • Wetland Ecosystems

River Ecosystems

Approximately 75% of the Eastern Cape Drakensberg is in natural condition.

  • 37% Critically Endangered
  • 28% Endangered
  • 9% Vulnerable
  • 63% Least Threatened

Wetland Ecosystems

Up to 37% of wetland ecosystems are critically endangered in Eastern Cape Drakensberg. Further, 14% are endangered.

  • 37% Critically Endangered
  • 14% Endangered
  • 2% Vulnerable
  • 27% Least Threatened


The Eastern Cape Drakensberg has no protection at all (0%) and it is not prioritised for protection in terms of the National Protected Areas Expansion Strategy. Nevertheless, 73% of it is in natural condition. Further, up to 13% of it is under cultivation. What mechanism would be suited to restricting and prohibiting negative environmental impacts from a range of activities in this water source area?

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.