Use of biological and water quality indices to evaluate conditions of the Upper uMngeni Catchment, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

  • R van Deventer
  • CD Morris
  • TR Hill
  • NA Rivers-Moore
Keywords: biomonitoring, ecological condition, nutrient loads, Midmar Dam, SASS5 index, uMngeni River


Urban and agricultural land uses have the potential to severely compromise the quality of impoundments, if ineffectively managed and operated. A case in point is the upper uMngeni Catchment, including Midmar Dam, which is integral to the freshwater supply infrastructure in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Monitoring sites were established in varying land use types in three subcatchments of the upper uMngeni Catchment to assess water quality and ecosystem health impacts of current land uses. Conclusions about water quality were drawn using pairing of SASS5 and spot water quality data. Water quality and ecological condition were highest in commercial plantations and upstream of a high-density settlement where natural land cover and sparse settlement occurred. Although marked declines in water quality and ecological condition were observed under commercial agriculture. The most notable declines in water quality and ecological condition were observed downstream of the settlement with elevated nutrient loads. Shifts in aquatic biota were highly correlated with seasonal shifts in water quality, influenced markedly by land use. The cumulative effects of current land use activities, urban development and agriculture on Midmar Dam’s water quality should be viewed with concern. Additional development in the form of additional social housing projects may exacerbate impacts. 


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9364
print ISSN: 1608-5914