Oral Presentation International Conference on River Connectivity (Fish Passage 2018)

River connectivity and fish migrations a missing link in Water Resource Management in South Africa (#66)

Gordon C O'Brien 1 , Robin Petersen 2 , Eddie Riddell 2
  1. University of Mpumalanga, Nelspruit, MPUMALANGA, South Africa
  2. Scientific Services, South African National Parks, Skukuza , Kruger National Park, South Africa

In South Africa, progressive water resource management legislation has resulted in new protection efforts to sustain water resources.  The National Water act advocates the implementation of Resource Directed Measures (RDM) that; (1) classify the quality and associated use or protection vision of resources on appropriate regional scales, (2) establish the Resource Quality Objectives (RQOs) and (3) the Ecological Reserve for water resources that include the E-flows and associated quality of resources. This RDM approach includes the determination of water resource user requirements (user-specs) and ecological requirements (eco-specs) that are addressed in a trade-off process to establish suitable protection measures for important resources.  

In many case studies in South Africa, the importance of river connectivity management and associated fish migrations are unknown and have not adequately been considered in RDM procedures. The Kruger National Park (KNP) in South Africa is a world-renowned conservation area that has five major rivers flowing in an easterly direction through the park from high resource use areas upstream of the park. The KNP has been described as a series of important socio-ecologically important rivers within a sea of dams.  Although the RQOs and Ecological Reserve for these protection prioritised ecosystems have been established, and gazetted, the desired wellbeing of the systems has not being achieved. This has largely been attributed to river connectivity loss and disruptions of fish migrations.

To mitigate these omissions, the role of river connectivity and associated ecosystem processes has been proposed to be integrated into an adaptive, use and protection trade-off process for the RQO determination process for the rivers in the KNP. This has resulted in new resource protection requirements for these resources that have major consequences to resources availability for use. These case studies may result in amendments to RDM procedures throughout South Africa and mitigate river connectivity issues.