General River Concerns
The River Mouth
South Africa is a water-stressed country and even though KwaZulu-Natal is considered a water-rich province, it is also prone to droughts every few years. Droughts occur when rainfall is below average for one or more seasons, and the water levels in the dams and rivers drop dramatically. Under these conditions people along the Umgeni River must use water sparingly, and sometimes water restrictions are enforced by water authorities.
Floods [BACK TO TOP]
Along the Umgeni River, flooding occurs as frequently as once every two or three years. Although flooding occurs naturally, it can be made worse by certain kinds of poor land use such as the destruction of natural vegetation, wetlands, overgrazing and deforestation, all of which increase surface run-off. The consequences of a major flood such as those of KwaZulu-Natal in 1987 can be devastating. Rural and urban communities living along the Umgeni River had their crops and livestock washed away.
Blocked Sewage Systems [BACK TO TOP]
Dumping solid waste down manholes and throwing left-over food, engine oil, rags and paper down drains restricts the flow of sewage through pipes. This causes toilets and drains to overflow and ultimately, damage to the property. The sewage can also flow into our rivers causing both water pollution and a danger to people's health.
Informal Settlements [BACK TO TOP]
The ever-increasing rise in the number of squatters who love in areas around streams and rivers places increasing pressure on our watercourses. These people do not have access to treated water, and in many areas they use the rivers for washing and bathing. This polluted water often gives rise to water-borne diseases.
Agriculture [BACK TO TOP]
When farmers spray their crops with pesticides, the water quality is affected. These chemicals can seep in the groundwater, which then flows into our rivers and streams. When animals are kept in an area which is too small for them, overgrazing occurs. When heavy rains fall on overgrazed lands, the rich topsoil, in which plants grow, is washed away into the rivers, causing soil erosion.
Commercial Forestry [BACK TO TOP]
When exotic or alien plants are planted in large numbers, they can drain the water supplies in the area. Pine Trees for example, can each absorb up to 200 liters of water a day. Even though commercial forestry isn't polluting the river, it certainly has a negative impact on the volume of water in the catchments.
People [BACK TO TOP]
Humans cause pollution along the river. Where there are no people living, the river is clearly safe to drink. Yet, as the Umgeni continues to flow more and more people begin to contaminate the water and it becomes not at all safe to drink.