Mapping of water-related ecosystem services in the uMngeni catchment using a daily time-step hydrological model for prioritisation of ecological infrastructure investment – Part 1: Context and modelling approach
South Africa is a semi-arid country which frequently faces water shortages, and experienced a severe drought in the 2016 and 2017 rainfall seasons. Government is under pressure to continue to deliver clean water to the growing population at a high assurance of supply. Studies now show that the delivery of water may be sustained not only through built infrastructure such as dams and pipelines, but also through investment in ecological infrastructure (EI). A daily time-step hydrological model was used to map areas which should be prioritised for protection or rehabilitation to sustain the delivery of water-related ecosystem services within the uMngeni catchment. We focused on three water-related ecosystem services, i.e.: water supply, sustained baseflow, erosion control/avoidance of excessive sediment losses. The two key types of degradation were modelled, namely, overgrazing and the invasion of upland areas by Black Wattle (Acacia mearnsii). This, Part 1 of a paper in 2 parts, provides a discussion on the role of EI in delivering water-related ecosystem services, describes the motivation for the study, and the methods used in modelling and mapping the catchment. The results of this modelling exercise are presented in Part 2, which also explores and illustrates the potential hydrological benefits of rehabilitation and protection of EI in the uMngeni Catchment.
Keywords: water, ecosystem services, hydrological modelling, ecological infrastructure, water security