12 Dec #e4k_water #OlifantsRiverWC Part 1, February 2014
Water Research and Environmental Education Project
Part 1, February 2014
The #e4k_water research and education project along the Olifants River in the Western Cape (#OlifatnsRiverWC) is a seasonal analysis of the Rivers water quality.
The summer seasonal sampling took place from the 1-10 February 2014. This post is aimed at discussing the first section of the Olifants River along its course, highlighting the #JourneyofWater.
Section 1: The Head Waters (Visgat – Citrusdal)
The Rivers Head Waters generally refers to the source of a river. This area normally consists of mountainous terrain with a higher elevation than the rest of the rivers course. The river is usually fast flowing in the head waters with minimal erosion and rivers flowing through narrow gorges.
The Olifants River within the Western Cape is no different. Its source is known as an area called Visgat, found within the Agter Witsenberg above the mountainous town of Ceres up the Gydo Pass and on into agricultural valley of the Witsenburg.
Despite the source of the Olifants River being Visgat, the Grootwinterhoek and Cederberg mountains have been highlighted as critically important by the World Wide Fund of Nature in South Afirca (WWFSA)with their recent #JourneyofWater project. WWFSA stated that these areas are not only biodiversity hotspots but also important water sources or catchment areas with 70% of these mountainous areas being protected. Furthermore the Olifants River alongside the Berg and Breede all originate wit in these mountains and they supply water to the City of Cape Town, Atlantis, Ceres and Saldanah (#JourneyofWater).
With Visgat being the source of this mighty Western Cape River it only seems fit that water samples as well as sediment samples are collected in the mountainous valleys of the Agter Witsenberg. Insects are also collected, identified, recoded and released using the SASS5 or South African Scoring System. These methods of data collective will occur along the Rivers entire course, seasonally at existing sample sites.
From the Agter Witsenberg and Visgat the Olifants River enters a network of narrow valleys until it eventually finds itself near Keerom and the Beaverlac Nature Reserve. Sadly despite the valley being difficult to access alien vegetation such as port jacksons have established themselves along the rivers course.
The beauty of rivers is that they tend to be elusive and once you know where they are or you think you can follow them their course turns and your vehicle packed with your scientific equipment can go no further. So our gravel road leads the Toyota Enviro Outreach Hilux towing the Jurgens XT140 off road trailer, away from the river and alongside the Cederburg traveling to the town of Citrusdal, where our base of operations will turn south towards Keerom and Beaverlac.
Driving along the tarred road against the flow of the River is almost amusing as the aim of our project is to scientifically sample data from the source of the river to the sea though after crossing farmers property with permission and permits the Olifatns River near Keeroms is a spectacular sight. The river is scattered with rocks and pebbles becoming wider and the only way to cross the river is through a low water crossing called a “driff” basically an area compacted rocks.
The driff also makes a convenient spot to park our Toyota Enviro Outreach Hilux, open the canopy and tailgate using the vehicle for what it is built to be, a mobile field station for data collecting. With snowmaster fridge/freezers and dual battery system installed in the Hilux scientific samples can be collected and preserved for Laboratory analysis back in Cape Town.
So we hope you learnt something about the head waters of a river and something about the Olifants River and its importance to one of the largest cities in South Africa.
Our next mini project is the 13-16th March, where explore4knowledge will be celebrating the International Day of Water Action on the 14th March alongside our partners International Rivers the original organisers of this event.
Read more about our event here: Water Action Weekend 2014