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Developing a protocol for managing the biophysical condition of a water management area: the Sabie catchment case study

E van Wyk
J Jaganyi
B van Wilgen
C Breen
K Rogers
D Roux
F Venter


Recent modification of the South African Water Law spells out fundamental changes for the way the country's water resources will be managed in the future. One of the most significant mandates is the establishment of Catchment Management Agencies (CMAs) and the delegation of water resource management responsibilities to these institutions. Their function will focus on the overall management of water resources on a catchment basis. Within the context of the new legal framework, there is a great need for support to CMAs, particularly in providing them with procedures for the optimal management of water resources in order to ensure a balance between sustainable use and protection of the resource. This paper describes a research project that aims to develop a protocol for the integrated management of the biophysical component of a catchment, with particular focus on river systems. This protocol will be a management tool for Catchment Management Agencies in support of more integrated and sustainable water resource management.

South Africa's Sabie-Sand catchment was selected as a case study area for several reasons. This catchment has a large number of current and historic water resource related initiatives, such as the Working for Water Programme (alien plant clearing), the River Health Programme (river quality assessment) and The Kruger National Park Rivers Research Programme (a river management programme). In addition the diversity of stakeholders and land-use issues in the catchment and the extensive collection of available information relating to water use and protection for this catchment makes the Sabie-Sand a rich learning ground.

This project aims to use information from the Sabie catchment to produce and implement a protocol which will combine and integrate the knowledge of water resource management from diverse but related fields in order to enhance catchment-based integrated water resource management. It also aims to extract and document lessons from current research initiatives, to assess the usefulness and relevance of their products for CMAs and to identify gaps in the research framework that need to be addressed in order to meet the water resource management needs of CMAs. This paper reports on the project development during its first phase, describes the next steps in the research process and provides a conceptual framework of how the research team envisages the practical implementation of the protocol.

Keywords: Integrated water resource management; Catchment Managements Agencies; protocol, management strategy; objectives hierarchy; adaptive resource management; Sabie-Sand catchment; current state

(Afr J Aqua Sci: 2000 25: 162-168)

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eISSN: 1727-9364
print ISSN: 1608-5914