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In Numbers

The Mpumalanga Drakensberg water source area supplies water to parts of Mpumalanga (eMalahleni, Middleburg and Nelspruit) as well as Phalaborwa in Limpopo.

Size: 869 676 ha

Main Rivers

The Olifants, Sabie, Elands and Crocodile rivers flow from Mpumalanga Drakensberg. Free-flowing rivers that flow from this water source area include Elands, Mbyamiti and Nwanedzi-Sweni.

Did You Know?

  • Approximately 6000 old mines in South Africa have been abandoned. Coal and gold mines leak acid mine drainage (AMD) into nearby rivers.
  • The Mpumalanga Drakensberg supplies the Olifants catchments with freshwater.
  • The Olifants catchment has been significantly impacted by acid mine drainage.
  • A Ramsar Site, the Verloren Vallei Nature Reserve, is located within this water source area.


Land Use (in %)

  • Mining 0.00%
  • Wetlands 1.57%
  • Urban 2.51%
  • Cultivation (irrigated) 2.05%
  • Waterbodies 0.33%
  • Plantation/Woodlot 37.95%
  • Cultivation (dryland) 2.05%
  • Natural 53.45%

9% Protected Areas

Only 9% of the Mpumalanga Drakensberg water source is formally protected. This includes ten provincial nature reserves, twelve forest protected areas and two local nature reserves. The Kruger National Park is downstream this water source area.

  • 12
  • 10
  • 2

Threat Status

  • River Ecosystems
  • Wetland Ecosystems

River Ecosystems

Approximately 53% of the Mpumalanga Drakensberg is in natural condition.

  • 6% Critically Endangered
  • 34% Endangered
  • 6% Vulnerable
  • 54% Least Threatened

Wetland Ecosystems

  • 26% Critically Endangered
  • 20% Endangered
  • 54% Vulnerable
  • 54% Least Threatened


Coal mining is a significant threat to the Mpumalanga Drakensberg. Further, 37% of the water source is under large-scale plantation. Only 53% is in natural condition and only 9% is protected. Which legal mechanism may provide protection from environmental impacts of mining, cultivation and forestry activities?

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.