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In Numbers

Stretching from the east to west along the Klein Karoo, the Swartberg water source area supplies water to Beaufort West and Oudtshoorn.

Size: 71 502 ha

Spanning only 71 502 hectares, Swatberg is a relatively small water source area.

Main Rivers

The Gamka, Gouritz, Sand, Dorp, and Olifants rivers flow from the Swartberg water source area.

Did You Know?

  • The Swartberg Nature Reserve was declared a World Heritage Site in 2004.
  • The Klein Karoo forms part of the Succulent Karoo biome, the most diverse arid biome in the world.
  • The rivers from the Swartberg drain into the Karoo and the Klein Karoo. Towns in the Karoo rely on river water stored in dams as well as groundwater for their water supply.


Land Use (in %)

  • Mining 0.00%
  • Wetlands 0.46%
  • Urban 0.00%
  • Cultivation (irrigated) 0.11%
  • Waterbodies 0.09%
  • Plantation/Woodlot 0.00%
  • Cultivation (dryland) 4.11%
  • Natural 95.22%

78% Protected Areas

Approximately 78% of Swartberg is formally protected. This includes one mountain catchment area, two forest protected areas and one provincial nature reserve. Gamkaspoort Nature Reserve and Gamkaskloof Nature Reserve are found within this water source area.

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Threat Status

  • River Ecosystems
  • Wetland Ecosystems

River Ecosystems

The Swartberg water source area is almost entirely in natural condition (95%). None of its river ecosystems are threatened.

  • 70% Critically Endangered
  • 10% Vulnerable
  • 100% Least Threatened

Wetland Ecosystems

Wetland ecosystems in the Swartberg water source area are highly threatened. Approximately 70% of its wetland ecosystems are critically endangered and 11% are vulnerable.

  • 70% Critically Endangered
  • 11% Vulnerable
  • 19% Least Threatened


Planned fracking activities are a major risk to this areas ground water supply. In 2014 the Department of Mineral Resources established a moratorium on fracking using Section 49 of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (see LEGAL TOOLBOX section). Keep this mechanism in mind and consider whether it is suitable for protecting any of our other water source areas.

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.