Resource Economic Studies in the Berg and Breede Catchments

14 February 2019

Water is a critical resource to support social and economic development. Economic growth is important for the well-being of our citizens of the Western Cape. Growth of urban areas and the agricultural economy affects the quality of water in our rivers. As a circular route in our economy we then need good quality water in our rivers to sustain farming.

To ensure good quality water in our rivers the wastewater treatment works (WWTW) need to be upgraded as towns grow, where growth of towns is occurring in many places across the Western Cape, with a trend of in-migration.

The Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEA&DP) with service providers conducted a study, based in the Breede Catchment, that considered the risks posed to agriculture by not maintaining adequate water cleansing systems for towns. The study focused on the following:

  • The costs involved in the cleansing of water from urban settlements at WWTW
  • What are the alternative strategies to hard infrastructure for cleansing urban waste water? (Economic Risks Associated with Declining Water Quality due to Urbanization: The Breed River Catchment, South Africa as a Case Study, Water SA Vol. 44 No. 3 July 2018)

A further study considered whether there is enough of a profit margin on a typical farm in the middle to upper Berg Catchment to clean the water on farm for agriculture (Drought and Agriculture, The Water Wheel July/August 2018).

Read this article where the research shows through economic modelling that water cleansing is financially worthwhile to ensure profitability in the marketplace.

The importance of good water quality monitoring data along the river for management of the water resource is emphasised. Useful recommendations for water management for the Berg River Catchment are made, considering the population and urbanisation trends.

Links to the various articles:

WW July_Aug 2018_Berg (pdf, 3.66 MB)
WWMarch18_BreedeRiver_web (pdf, 596.91 KB)

What happens to the profitability of a farm if good quality water is delivered by a gravity fed irrigation system instead of an open irrigation canal? This ground-breaking solution is explored in the Middle Breede Catchment using modelling of a typical farm, in research by the DEA&DP and service providers. The conceptual setting for the study is the water-energy-food nexus to understand the interdependencies between the water, energy and food sectors in the agricultural economy. The farm budget model is used within the water-energy-food nexus to guide water governance (Applying the water-energy-food nexus to farm profitability in the Middle Breede Catchment, South Africa, S Afr J Sci. 2018;114(11/12); http://www.sajs.co.za). Governance aspects of water management are further explored in the research, Supporting the Breede River Catchment, in Water and Sanitation Africa, March/ April 2018. In response to the environmental needs of the Breede Catchment the DEA&DP has responded with the Breede Environmental Resource Protection Plan with a synopsis of this in the article in Water Resource Management, The Water Wheel March/April 2018.