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Environmental Flow Requirement Projects

Environmental Flow Requirements, or as it is also known as, Instream Flow Requirements, Ecological Water Requirements, Ecological Reserve, eFlows Assessments and Ecological Flow Requirements are the core business of Rivers for Africa. RfA and its associates have during the last twenty years undertaken consulting projects on many of the large and smaller rivers in southern Africa. RfA have been key in the developments of methods, specifically to assess flow requirements at different levels of detail linked to different types of water resource developments and investigations. All these assessments (irrespective of the level) include two components:

  • EcoClassification: The assessment of the Present Ecological State, the Ecological Importance and a future state as an ecological desired state.
  • Quantification of the flow regime: Flow regimes that could result in different ecological states. Future flow scenarios are assessed to assess or predict the change in the Present Ecological State.

These assessments also play a role in Environmental and Social Impact Assessments.

Detailed or comprehensive assessments: These assessments include site specific field work, biophysical surveys, cross-sectional surveys and assessments. It often also includes socio-cultural, ecosystem services, socio-economic and market economic assessments and stakeholder participation. Detailed assessments include wetland and estuarine assessments if relevant, as well as scenario based predictions on future flow regimes. Ecological specifications designed to determine whether ecological objectives are being achieved through monitoring, as well as the design of monitoring plans also form part of these detailed assessments. Most of these studies includes a scenario assessment to determine the potential changes in ecological state due to an altered flow regime such as for hydropower schemes or new dam developments.

Some of the rivers which have been addressed by Rivers for Africa (both as lead consultant or as task leader of the rivers component) are listed below. Rivers for Africa was responsible for the coordination, management, training and specialist input.

  • Lower Orange River and Estuary: Study Manager. Team of 23 specialists.
  • Mzimvubu, Thina, Tsitsa and Knira Rivers: Co-study Manager. Addressed 4 EFR sites.
  • Mvoti, Mkomazi, Mngeni, Lovu, Mtanvuna River. Team of 44 specialists who addressed 12 EFR study sites and two estuaries at detailed level.
  • Gouritz, Duivenhoks, Gouko, Touws, Gamka, Buffels, Doring, Keurbooms, Olifants, Kammanassie Rivers: Team Leader. Addressed 10 EFR sites.
  • Kabompo River (Zambia): Study Manager. Team of 5 specialists.
  • Orange and Fish Rivers and Estuary (South Africa and Namibia): Study Manager. Team of 44 specialists who addressed 3 EFR sites and the estuary.
  • Lower Kafue River and Zambezi (Zambia and Zimbabwe). Study Manager. Twelve specialist undertaking an extensive assessment to predict changes due to hydropower utilising test releases from an existing dam.
  • Upper Vaal River: Study Manager: Team of 26 specialists who addressed 13 EFR study sites on the Vaal River and key tributaries.
  • Sabie and Crocodile Rivers: Study Manager: Team of 34 specialists who addressed 15 EFR study sites on the Sabie, Crocodile and its main tributaries.
  • Mokolo River: Study Manager: Team of 28 specialists and trainees who addrressed 5 EFR study sites. This study also includes work on the interaction on groundwater surface water interaction and the ecological consequences of changing pool levels.
  • Orange, Caledon, Kraai, Molopo Rivers: Task Leader. Team of 20 specialists dealing with eight EFR study sites.
  • Knysna, Gouna, Diep, Karatarra Rivers: Task Leader. Addressed 4 EFR sites with a rivers task team of 12 specialists.
  • Ngwempisi, Mkondvo (Swaziland), Assegaai, Usuthu (Swaziland), Maputo (Mosambique). Team of 12 persons working on 4 EWR sites as well as the estuary and the Maputo Floodplain Lakes.
  • Kromme and associated rivers. Task Leader
  • Kat and Balfour Rivers
  • Thukela, Little Thukela, Sundays, Bushmans, Mooi, Little Mooi, Buffalo Rivers. Study Manager. Team of 29 specialists dealt with 17 EFR sites including the estuary and the near shore marine environment.
  • Apies and Pienaars Rivers as well as tributaries. Study Leader
  • Nyl River and Nylsvlei Wetland assessment. Study Leader
  • Olifants River (North): 17 EWR sites. Study Manager
  • Mhlathuze River and tributaries and associated lakes: Co-Study Manager.

National Water Resources Classification and Resource Quality Objective determination

Chapter 3 of the National Water Act (NWA) – Act No. 36 of 1998 – provides for the protection of water resources through the implementation of resource directed measures which includes the Classification of water resources, setting the Reserve and Resource Quality Objectives (RQOs). Classification must be undertaken to ensure that a balance is sought between the need to protect and sustain water resources on one hand and the need to develop and use them on the other. Resource Quality Objectves must be set after the systems have been classification and provides the information that is required to monitor whether the Class is being achieved.

In essence, Classification forms part of Integrated Water Resource Management and as such, includes components of Environmental Flow Requirements, extensive stakeholder involvement and scenario evaluation leading to the classification of the water resource in terms of the use that can be allowed and the level of protection required. The first classification studies were initiated in 2011 and the first Resource Quality Objectives studies during 2012.

Rivers for Africa have been involved in most of these studies initiated since and has also played a leading role in the development of integrated approaches and methods applicable to very large study areas.

  • Vaal Classification Study (Task Leader)
  • Letaba Classification Study (Study Manager)
  • Inkomati Classification Study (Study Manager)
  • Mvoti to Umzimkulu Classification Study (Study Manager)
  • Mzimvubu Classification (Co-Study Manager)

  • Letaba Resource Quality Objective Study (Study Manager)
  • Inkomati Resource Quality Objective Study (Study Manager)
  • Mvoti to Umzimkulu Resource Quality Objective Study (Study Manager)
  • Mzimvubu Resource Quality Objective Study (Co-Study Manager)

Method development and other projects

  • Development and Pilot Implementation of a Framework to Operationalise the Reserve (DWAF): Study manager: This study includes the development and pilot testing of a model to determine real time operating rules where EFRs must be implemented. Pilot testing is taking place on 5 large rivers. This study also includes the further development of Ecological Water Resources Monitoring protocols, guidelines, manuals, models as well as pilot testing.
  • Development of EcoClassification procedures: Study manager. This study is a Water Research Commission Study and includes the development of various individual models to assess the ecological status of Fish, Invertebrates, Riparian vegetation, Physico-chemical attributes, Fluvial geomorphology, Habitat Integrity as well as the determination of an integrated state called the EcoStatus.
  • Development of the Revised Desktop Ecological Reserve Model. Study manager. During the last 10 years three Water Resource Commission Studies have been initiated to revise and update the initial Desktop Reserve Model. This model estimates the Environmental Flow Requirements at desktop level.
  • Establishment of the lower Magudua hydropower scheme in Swaziland. Task Leader. This project formed part of an ESIA study and included the evaluation of the downstream impacts due to the proposed hydropower scheme and resulting operating scenarios.
  • Development of procedures to operationalise Resource Directed Measures. Study Manager. The main project features include the development of frameworks for integrated process in terms of environmental flow requirements, integrated water resource management and monitoring.
  • Environmental Flow Assessment for Riomin Pty (Mkurumidze River, Kenia). Specialist. Rapid determination of ecological status and flow requirements as part of an ESIA.
  • EIA and Environmental Flows for the Karino Hydro-electrical project, Crocodile River. Study Manager. The study was undertaken for NEPSA energy and includes an EIA to evaluate the impacts of hydropower and recommendations on scenarios and real-time implementation.
  • Review and update of the desktop Present Ecological State *PES) and Ecological Importance (EI) – Ecological Sensitivity (ES) of South African Rivers according to Sub-Quatenary Catchments: Inkomati (X), Limpopo (A) and Olifants (B). Study manager. The 2010 initiated project assessed the PES and the EIS (or EI-ES as it is now referred to) on a country wide basis at subquaternary scale. The study included the assessment of ecological status, importance and sensitivity at sub-quaternary scale for approximately a 1000 river reaches.
  • Investigation into the provision of a fish barrier on the upper Mooi River and the related socio-economic study. Study manager: Bulk of the study was a large socio-economic study on the value of trout in the study area and the association stakeholder participation.
Black Mfolozi river fish survey electroshocking.
 Fish survey electroshocking.

P.O. Box 1684, Derdepark. 0035
South Africa

Phone: +27(0)824611289
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