Inorganic water chemistry, inorganic chemistry index, South Africa, surface waters
The main purpose of this study was to determine a simple inorganic chemistry index that can be used for all surface waters in South Africa, in order to characterise the inorganic chemistry of surface waters. Water quality data collected up until 1999 from all sample monitoring stations (2 068 monitoring stations, 364 659 samples) in South Africa were transformed into an Excel dataset and subsequently quality screened using the stoichiometric charge balance, after which 196 570 (41%) of the water analyses could be used. Using an inorganic chemistry index (ICI) a more detailed analysis can be performed. The ICI shows that the surface water chemistry in South Africa is dominated by chemical weathering, chloride salinisation and sulphate contamination. Based on the importance of these factors, primary catchment areas in South Africa can be subdivided into 3 groups, each with their own characteristic water chemistry. The results of this study allowed the development of a ternary diagram in which the 3 factors are represented. This diagram can be used to investigate the variation of the inorganic water chemistry of South African surface waters in time and space.