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In Numbers

The Maloti Drakensberg water source area is located in the Eastern Cape, nestled between Lesotho and the Free State border. It supplies water to Gauteng, the Free State, Delmas and eMbalenhle in Mpumalanga and Upington in the Northern Cape.

Size: 1 636 789 ha

The Maloti Drakensberg stretches over 1 636 789 hectares. It is the third largest water source area in South Africa.

Main Rivers

The Mzimvubu, Orange, Bokspruit, and Mthatha rivers flow from the Maloti Drakensberg water source area.

Did You Know?

  • The Maloti Drakensberg is a critical water source area, supporting almost 50% of South Africa’s GDP.
  • The Maloti Drakensberg supplies Gauteng, South Africa’s biggest economic hub, with water.
  • This water source area supplies up to 70% of Bloemfontein’s water.
  • Water is Lesotho’s biggest export to South Africa. Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highland Water Project will be finished in 2020 at a cost of R20 billion.


Land Use (in %)

  • Mining 0.00%
  • Wetlands 0.49%
  • Urban 0.00%
  • Cultivation (irrigated) 0.00%
  • Waterbodies 0.00%
  • Plantation/Woodlot 0.07%
  • Cultivation (dryland) 2.19%
  • Natural 97.26%

1% Protected Areas

Only 1% of this water source area is protected. This includes the Goldern Gate Highlands National Park, Ukahlamba Drakensberg World Heritage Site, Ntsikeni Wildlife Reserve and Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve. The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park (a Ramsar site) falls within this water source area.

  • 1

Threat Status

  • River Ecosystems
  • Wetland Ecosystems

River Ecosystems

Approximately 97% of the Maloti Drakensberg water source area is in natural condition and none of its river (0%) are critically endangered.

  • 34% Endangered
  • 59% Vulnerable
  • 17% Least Threatened

Wetland Ecosystems

All (100%) wetland ecosystems in Maloti Drakensberg are “least threatened”

  • 100% Least Threatened


The Maloti Drakensberg is a trans-boundary water source area. Consider whether there are any provisions in international law (including the Treaty on the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, 1986; SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourses; or SADC Regional Water
Policy) to protect this shared water source area. Also consider policy mechanisms, such as public-private partnerships, that could facilitate private sector support to municipalities in delivering water-related services.

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.