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The origin of the Breede River is in the "Warm Bokkeveld" near Ceres, but the river is also fed by important tributaries such as the Hex River and the Riviersonderend. The area from the east of the Langeberg mountains (Die Koo) also drains via a break in the mountains between Montague and Ashton to the Breede River. The river exits the "Valley" between Bonnievale and Swellendam and meanders for approximately km over the coastal plane south of Swellendam before reaching the mouth at Cape Infanta (Witsand)

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Published by WAMTechnology, 2017-06-02 08:16:16

River Story book - Breede river

The origin of the Breede River is in the "Warm Bokkeveld" near Ceres, but the river is also fed by important tributaries such as the Hex River and the Riviersonderend. The area from the east of the Langeberg mountains (Die Koo) also drains via a break in the mountains between Montague and Ashton to the Breede River. The river exits the "Valley" between Bonnievale and Swellendam and meanders for approximately km over the coastal plane south of Swellendam before reaching the mouth at Cape Infanta (Witsand)

Keywords: river,catchment management agency,water resource management,dams,towns,water

The River Story Books

The Breede River



The printing and distribution of this book is sponsored by:



Content

1. General
1.1 How are rivers formed?
1.2 What is a river catchment?

2. Overview of the Breede River

3. Tributaries

4. Geophysical
4.1 Topography
4.2 Geology

5. Hydrology
5.1 Upper Breede Zone
5.2 Central Breede Zone
5.3 Lower Breede Zone

6. Ecology
6.1 Aquatic Animals
6.2 Terrestrial Animals
6.3 Vegetation

7. Climate
7.1 Temperature
7.2 Rainfall

8. Land-use
8.1 Agricultural
8.2 Nature Conservation, Reserves and Tourism

9. Populated Places

10. Dams

11. Wetlands: Papenkuils

12. The Breede Estuary

13. References and Acknowledgements

14. Sponsor's Page



General

How are rivers
formed ?

Are you aware of the fact the rivers are one of the sources of fresh water.
The points of origin of most of the rivers are mountains.

A natural stream of freshwater flowing downhill from its source in the mountains to meet an
ocean or a lake is known as a river. The river water is confined to a channel or a stream bed.
The rivers are formed when group of springs and streams known as headwaters having their
origin in the mountains flow down to form a large stream or springs. The stream bed of a river lies
between the banks of a river. The large streams are called a river while the smaller ones are
called creeks, brooks, rivulets or tributaries.

The rivers form the major component of the water cycle. The water in a river is accumulated
from precipitation of ground water and also through the release of stored water in natural
reservoirs such as glaciers.

Every river in this universe has a point of origin and the gravity plays a significant role in the
direction of the flow of a river.

What is a river
catchment?

The river catchment, or drainage basin, is all the land from the mountain to the seashore, drained
by a single river and its tributaries. Catchment areas vary greatly in size - a big river may have a
catchment area of several thousand square kilometres, whereas a smaller tributary will have a
catchment area of only a few hectares.

Catchments are separated from each other by watersheds. The characteristics of any river
(physical, chemical, biological) are determined by the nature of the catchment and the
activities, both human and natural, that take place in it.

1

Overview of the Breede River

The origin of the Breede River is in the "Warm Bokkeveld" near Ceres, but the river is also fed
by important tributaries such as the Hex River and the Riviersonderend. The area from the
east of the Langeberg Mountains also drains via a break in the mountains between
Montague and Ashton to the Breede River. The river exits the "Valley" between Bonnievale
and Swellendam and meanders over the coastal plane south of Swellendam before
reaching the mouth at Cape Infanta (Witsand).

The valley is surrounded by impressive mountain ranges (Cape Folded Montains), the
Langeberge at the east, the Slanghoek, DuToits and Stettyns mountains at the west and the
Riviersonderend mountains in the south.
The Breede River catchment (12600km2) and its main tributary, the Riviersonderend river
drain the greater part of the water management area. The Breede River itself is 322km long,
rising in the Skurweberg Mountains near Ceres and draining into the estuary mouth between
Infanta and Witsand.

The Breede River originates near Ceres and is drained by four main tributaries (Dwars,
Koekoedouw, Titus and Witels River) which form its headwaters. The river reach then extends
from Mitchells Pass, in a south easterly direction to the foot of the Limietberg Mountains. Here
it is joined by the Witte, Slanghoek, Molenaars/Smalbaar, Holsloot, Waboomsrivier and Jan
du Toit's rivers respectively.

The Central Breede sub-catchment is the area downstream of Brandvlei Dam to the
confluence of the Breede River with the Riviersonderend River.
This area consists of intensively cultivated lands of orchards and vineyards in the Worcester
and Robertson area. The sub-catchment contains several relatively small tributaries; such as
the Nuy (and Koo), Kogmanskloof, Doring, Poesjenels, Konings, Keisers, Groot and Boesman
rivers.
These rivers drain the Waboomberge, the northern and southern slopes of the Langeberg
range, and the northern slopes of the Riviersonderend Mountains. Within this reach the
Breede River starts to show characteristics of a lowland system, with the channel broadening
the gradient becoming gentler and the substrate becoming dominated by gravel and sand.
The flow of many of these tributaries has been altered from being perennial streams to
becoming mostly seasonal as a result of the abstraction of water for intensive agricultural
practices in the surrounding areas.

2

The Lower Breede sub-catchment:

The Lower Breede sub-catchment includes the lower reaches of the Breede River after its confluence with
the Riviersonderend River. In this section the river widens, becoming a meandering lowland system. The
most significant tributary to join the Breede River along its lower reaches is the Buffelsjag River, which drains
in the north-western portion of this sub-area.

3

Tributaries

Boesmans River The origin is in the Langeberge. Flow is regulated by the A tributary is a stream
Buffeljags River - Buffeljags Dam. or river that flows into
a larger stream or
Doring River main stem (or parent)
Dwars River river or a lake.
Groot River A tributary does not
Hex River flow directly into a

Hoeks River sea or ocean.
A confluence, where
Holsloot River two or more bodies of
water meet together
Kingna River – Near Montagu usually refers to the
joining of tributaries.
Koekedouw River

Kogmanskloof River

Konings River - Draining the area at Mc Gregor

Keisers River

Molenaars River

Nuy River

Poesjenels River – Draining a valley called Agter- Kliphoogte, south of Robertson.

Riviersonderend - The major tributary of the Breede River, draining the southern slopes of the

Riviersonderend mountains.

The origin is in the Franschoek Mountains, upstream of the

Theewaterskloof dam, an important water source for the Cape Peninsula.

Slanghoek River – Draining the western coastal plain south of Swellendam.

Dipka River

Titus River

Witels River

Slanghoek River 4

Topography Geophysical

The topography of the Breede Water Management Area is characterised by mountain
ranges in the north and west, the wide Breede River valley, and the rolling hills of the
Overberg. The Breede valley is flanked by the Franschhoek and Du Toit's Mountains in the
west, the Hex River Mountains to the north and the Langeberg Mountains in the east. The
higher peaks reach an altitude of 1500m-2000m.

Geology

Principal rock groups of the Breede River

Malmesbury
The oldest rocks belong to the late Precambrian (older than 542 million years) Malmesbury Group.
These heat- and pressure-altered and locally carbonate-rich sedimentary rocks form a narrow band
to the north of the Worcester Fault along the southern footslopes of the Langeberg range. On upper
slopes these clay-rich rocks often weather to form deep stony soils in which the stone readily fractures
along cleavage planes to form fine shards.

Table Mountain Group
The second oldest rocks in the Breede River Valley form the heights of the Langeberg range to the
north, and also of the Riviersonderend range to the south. These rocks, which belong to the late
Ordovician to Silurian (roughly 440 mya) Table Mountain Group, are mainly formed of erosion-resistant
quartz-rich sandstones.

Bokkeveld Group
The Table Mountain Group grades upwards into the alternating sequence of mainly shale and
sandstone formations which form the lower to mid Devonian Bokkeveld Group. Bokkeveld sediments
are of marine origin and were laid down at a time when the western and southern Cape lay beneath
a sea which was at times deeper than at others. Deep, quiet conditions are usually required for
deposition of the fine grained materials which, with increasing pressure, form mudstones, shales, slates
and phyllites, whereas high energy environments, such as those where strong currents and wave
action cause reworking of sediments and removal of fine material, are associated with sandstones.
Landscapes which are underlain by tilted formations of the Bokkeveld Group tend to be subdued
and to consist of an alternating sequence of hills and valleys, corresponding to outcrops of the
constituent sandstone and shale bands. In arid areas, water from marine shales may be brackish.

Witteberg Group
In contrast to the darker-coloured shales of the Bokkeveld Group, the overlying upper Devonian to
Carboniferous Witteberg Group is dominated by relatively mature, and therefore lighter coloured,
sandstones.

5

Geology

Upper Breede: Quartzitic Table Mountain sandstone, Bokkeveld and Malmesbury shales, Enon
conglomerate.
Central Breede: Quartzitic Table Mountain sandstone, Bokkeveld and Malmesbury shales.
Lower Breede: Table Mountain and Witteberg sandstone, Bokkeveld shales, Enon conglomerate,
Coastal deposits.

6

Hydrology

WMA= Water Management Area

Hydrology

Upper Breede Zone

The Upper Breede Zone includes the Ceres WMA and the Upper Breede WMA. In the Ceres
WMA, the major impoundments are the Ben Etive Dam, Rooikloof Dam, and the Koekedouw
Dam. While in the Upper Breede WMA, the major impoundments are the Stettynskloof Dam
and the Fairy Glen Dam. The main towns in this WMA are: Ceres, Prince Alfred, Wolseley,
and Rawsonville.

Ceres is the largest urban center with the highest requirement for potable water, which is
provided from the Koekedouw Dam. According to an agreement between the Ceres
Municipality and the Koekedouw Irrigation Board, for the first ten years after completion of the
Koekedouw Dam, i.e. up to 2018, the town will be entitled to 7 Mm³/a, and thereafter to 10
Mm³/a. This is sufficient to meet expected water requirements up to 2035.

Potable water to Prince Alfred Hamlet is obtained from a borehole and a spring with an
estimated combined yield of 0.876 Mm³/a. It is further estimated that a possible 2 Mm³/a
can be abstracted from the Wabooms River by means of an existing water turn, if required.
Wolseley has a water right from the Tierhokkloof catchment (1.116 Mm³/a) in the Witzenberg
Mountains. Water is also taken from the Artois canal which abstracts water from the Dwars
River (2.456 Mm³/a). A small quantity of water is also taken from the Montana borehole
(0.100 Mm³/a).

Rawsonville obtains most of its potable water from the Smalblaar River (0.266 Mm³/a). There
are also various boreholes in town for emergency use (0.622 Mm³/a).

Koekedouw Dam - Ceres

7

WMA= Water Management Area

Hydrology

Central Breede Zone
The Central Breede Zone includes the following WMAs: the Hex River, the Koo River,
Central Breede, and the Kogmanskloof. The Central Breede Zone is the largest zone in the
study area. It extends from the Greater Brandvlei Dam to the confluence of the Breede and
Riviersonderend Rivers.
Worcester has the largest urban water requirement.
All the potable water comes from two storage dams, namely Stetteynskloof and Fairy Glen
Dams. Although Worcester is entitled to an allocation of 17 Mm³/a from Stetteynskloof Dam,
the existing pipeline limits the abstraction from the dam to 15 Mm³/a. While the town has an
abstraction right to water from the Fairy Glen Dam of 2,7 Mm³/a, the actual annual
abstraction amounts to only 1,5 million m³/a. Irrigation water for "leiwater" and garden
irrigation is obtained from the Hex River and stored in the Worcester Dam. The town has a
right to 1/6th of the flow at the Sesbek diversion on the Hex River, and abstracts some 3
Mm³/a from this source.
Potable water to De Doorns is obtained from three sources of supply, namely: a mountain
stream providing 0.269 Mm³/a, a municipal borehole providing 0.035 Mm³/a, and the
Sanddrift Scheme providing 0.700 Mm³/a.
Most of the potable water required by Montagu comes from two mountain streams with some
augmentation from the Cogmanskloof Irrigation Board pump scheme, which pumps water
from the Breede River. The allocations are as follows: Keurkloof (0.630 Mm³/a), Donkerkloof
(0.175 Mm³/a), and CBR (0.600 Mm³/a).
Ashton Municipality uses only surface water for the provision of its water services. The main
source is the Breede River (Robertson) canal from which 0.831 Mm³/a is obtained. Water is
also obtained from the Cogmanskloof Irrigation Board (CBR) (0.271 Mm³/a), and from the
so-called Karpad and Martinusvlei streams originating in the Langeberg Mountains. In
addition, a temporary allocation of 0.350 Mm³/a has been granted by the CBR.

Stettynskloof Dam

8

WMA= Water Management Area

Hydrology

Central Breede Zone

Bonnievale abstracts most of its water from the Zanddrift Irrigation Board canal which flows
through the town. Bonnievale is scheduled for 74.5 ha, which relates to an annual supply of
1.2 Mm³ from the Zanddrift Irrigation Board. When the canal is out of commission water is
pumped directly from the Breede River. An average volume of 0.200 Mm³/a is pumped
directly from the river.

Originally Robertson was supplied from the De Hoop mountain stream at a rate of 21 l/s
(0.662 Mm³/a). This was later supplemented by water from the Dassieshoek stream, also at
21 l/s. In 1980, Koos Kok Dam (0.110 Mm³) was built. In 1992, Dassieshoek Dam (0.835
Mm³) was completed and supplies water by gravity pipeline to the purification works. The
Council still has access to a water turn in De Hoop - the so-called Barnardsplaas water – as
well as to a Keurkloof water turn which could be developed. The Municipality is also
scheduled for 207,2 ha (i.e. 1.500 Mm³/a) under the Breede River (Robertson) Irrigation
Board for agricultural water. This is presently used for the provision of "leiwater" to
residential plots. This water can also be purified to potable standards if and when required.

Most of the water used in McGregor is from a water turn from the Houtbaais River (1.2
Mm³/a). There is also a borehole that can be used in case of an emergency. Irrigation water
for the agricultural plots is also obtained from the Houtbaais River and is stored in dams.
Lower Breede Zone
The Lower Breede sub-area begins downstream of the confluence with the Riviersonderend
River. Thereafter the Breede River flows in an easterly direction until it is joined by the
Buffeljags River, south-east of Swellendam. Meandering further through wheat fields for about
50 km, the Breede River broadens into an estuary and finally reaches the sea at Sebastian Bay.
The main towns within this sub-area are Swellendam, Barrydale, and Suurbraak.

Potable water for Swellendam is obtained from the Grootkloof stream originating in the
Langeberg (0.687 Mm³/a). All the water supplied to Barrydale is by way of a water turn from the
Huis River (0.227 Mm³/a) and stored in two reservoirs before gravitating into the supply system.
Suurbraak obtains potable water from a mountain stream originating in the Langeberg
Mountains (0.359 Mm³/a). Buffeljags obtains potable water from the Buffeljags River irrigation
canal (0.035 Mm³/a). No formal water supply exits in Malgas. Potable water is obtained from
rainwater harvesting and abstraction from the nearby river and streams.

9

Ecology

The Breede River, and most of its tributaries, contain sensitive aquatic ecosystems and support
ecologically important wetlands and estuaries. An example is the Papenkuils Wetland which
contains a variety of wetland and terrestrial flora that are worthy of conservation and are not
conserved elsewhere.

Aquatic Animals

One or more alien fish species (smallmouth and spotted bass, bluegill sunfish, rainbow trout,
mosquito fish, tilapia and carp) were present at most sites surveyed.These species compete with
the indigenous Berg-Breede whitefish, Cape galaxias, Cape kurper and redfin minnow species for
food and habitat or prey on them.

Terrestrial Animals

Currently close to 50% of the existing Blue Crane population resides in the Western Cape
with the majority (nearly 40%) occurring in the Overberg region.
The Blue Crane (Anthropoides paradisea) is South Africa’s national bird and is currently
listed globally and nationally as ‘vulnerable’ due to the decline in population numbers
over the last few decades. The species naturally only occurred in the grassland areas in
the eastern and northern parts of the country. These areas have been subjected to
huge habitat changes due to the establishment of plantations with exotic timber
species, agriculture and urbanisation, which ultimately together with other
anthropogenic impacts (incidental poisoning), caused the decline of the species. The
Blue Crane has, however, adapted to the man-made ‘grasslands’ of the Overberg and
Swartland wheat areas, where the small grain crops and dry-land pastures form ideal
grassland substitutes.
The Blue Crane was rare to the Overberg before the 1980s but due to large scale
creation of Blue Crane friendly habitat, namely pastures, the area now represents a
stronghold for the remaining population. Currently close to 50% of the existing Blue
Crane population resides in the Western Cape with the majority (nearly 40%) occurring in
the Overberg region. It is unlikely that these birds moved southwards from their natural
distribution ranges, but have stemmed from a small local population that used to survive
along the edges of many pans occurring in the Overberg area. The local farming
community joined forces with CapeNature in 1991 and launched the Overberg Crane
Group .

10

Ecology

Terrestrial Animals

Bontebok

At one time the species D. dorcas must have had a
wide and continuous distribution in southern Africa.
Through climatic changes at some geological period of
time it became split into two populations which, over
the intervening ages, have diverged in characters,
leading to the recognition of the two subspecies we
see today, the endangered Bontebok (Damaliscus
pygargus pygarus), occurring naturally in the Fynbos
and Renosterveld areas of the Western Cape, and the
Blesbok (Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi) occurring in the
highveld.
In the 19th century the bontebok was brought to the
brink of extinction by overhunting. In 1926 the remaining
bontebok population was estimated to be less than 30
individuals. Due to an initiative by farmers near
Swellendam the first Bontebok National Park was
proclaimed in 1931 and populated with many the
remaining bontebok in the area. Today, the numbers
had grown to around 3000 worldwide. Bontebok,
nevertheless, remain the least common antelope in the
Southern African Subregion.
Bontebok National Park is the smallest in South Africa
but has the highest density of rare and endangered
bird life, fynbos species and animal life.

Vegetation

The Central-Breede sub-catchment consists of intensively cultivated lands of orchards and
vineyards in the Worcester and Robertson area.
Upper Breede: Mountain fynbos and Central Mountain Renosterveld.
Central Breede: Mountain fynbos, Central Mountain Renosterveld, Little Succulent Karoo.
Lower Breede: Mountain fynbos, Central Mountain Renosterveld, Little Succulent Karoo

11

Climate

Temperature

The temperature varies between 17ºC in the east to 15ºC along the south-west
coast, with an average of 17ºC for the whole Water Management Area.
Maximum temperatures are experienced in January (average daily max =
37ºC) and minimum temperatures usually occur in July (average daily min =
0ºC). Frost occurs throughout the area in winter, typically between mid-May
and late August

Rainfall

Rainfall is largely in the winter with occasional winter snowfalls
occurring on the mountains
in the south- and north west of the area. In the western
mountainous regions rainfall can exceed 1 800 mm/a, while in
the lower eastern parts the rainfall decreases to about 300
mm/a.
Cut-off lows often result in very heavy rain and are
associated with the province’s most severe flood losses,
including the Montagu floods in 2003 and the South Coast
floods of 2006/2007 and 2009. While flooding has
devastating impacts on people and properties close to
water bodies, these events are also an essential part of
nature and floods in rivers and estuaries provide an
important function in maintaining the habitats of these systems.

Flooding in the Western Cape has historically been associated with the rainfall events in May and September.
However, changing weather patterns have resulted in heavy rainfalls being experienced at other times of the
year. The Montagu floods occurred in March 2003 when an intense cut-off low swept across the south coast
and adjacent interior, with 178 mm rain being recorded in 24 hours by the rainfall station in Montagu. This, the
highest daily value recorded for Montagu in 23 years, led to riverine flooding and severe rain damage to
infrastructure, commercial farms and hundreds of low-income homes. It also resulted in the evacuation of
more than 500 families in Montagu as well as the local primary school.

12

Land-use

Agricultural

The land use is dominated by commercial agriculture,
ranging from intensive irrigation in the Breede
and Riviersonderend valleys as well as in the west of
the Overberg, to extensive rain fed cereal
cultivation and livestock in the Overberg. Irrigated
agriculture (wine and table grapes, dairy and
deciduous fruit), livestock farming, dry land agriculture
(wheat and canola cultivation) and associated
activities such as processing and packaging are the
primary economic activities in the region.
This water management area produces 70% of South
Africa’s table grapes, apples and fynbos for
international export.
Agricultural and urban land use patterns have
developed to reflect this variation in surface water
and rainfall. Irrigated fruit and vegetables dominate in
the north and west, changing to rain fed grains in the
center and south.
Agricultural towns are scattered throughout the
inland regions, while coastal residential-tourism towns
are dotted along the southwestern coast. Protected
mountain areas transition to highly developed
agricultural lands in the valleys and plains, and then
back to conservation areas along the south western
coast.

13

Nature Conservation, Reserves and Tourism

A number of protected areas and biosphere reserves are located in the region, with important
biodiversity conservation status. The estuaries and rivers of this region are also ecologically important for
commercial fisheries, recreation and biodiversity conservation.
The Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve
~conserves Succulent Karoo vegetation in a region where the natural vegetation has been, and
continues to be, transformed by agriculture.
~has been identified as a priority nature reserve specifically for youth development. Infrastructure and
capacity support this key focus which is led by the Langeberg community conservation component in
conjunction with reserve management. Youth groups from various parts of the surrounding and
extended communities benefit Environmental Education programmes on the nature reserve.
~has cultural historical value with a distinguishing landmark feature of a 2 kilometre stone wall, built in
1891, running through the reserve. has a long and varied conservation history. The Vrolijkheid Nature
Conservation Station, known today as “Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve”, was founded in 1958 as a Vermin
Research Farm and Hound Breeding Station and is still referred to by the locals as the “Proefplaas”.
South African indigenous game species, but not indigenous to the Succulent Karoo, were introduced to
the conservation station. Experience has indicated that these introductions should not have been
made since the vegetation cannot sustain these animals. All but the springbok and ostrich have been
removed, with only animals indigenous to the Robertson Karoo on the present day nature reserve. The
springbok population has declined steadily through the years with only a 6 few remaining. The ostrich
population has increased to the detriment of the vegetation and will soon be removed.
The African Crane Conservation Programme (EWT-ACCP)
This is a partnership programme between the Endangered Wildlife Trust and International Crane
Foundation (ICF). The EWT-ACCP empowers individuals and organisations to develop conservation
activities and promotes the sustainable use and wise management of wetland, grassland and Karoo
ecosystems upon which our crane species depend. Cranes are spectacular, graceful, long-lived birds
that have captivated the imaginations of thousands for millennia. The wetlands on which cranes
depend are also crucial for human health and livelihoods.
The lifelong devotion demonstrated by mating pairs has resulted in them being symbols of peace,
happiness and longevity. South Africa’s Blue Crane is prized as a symbol of royalty and only Zulu Kings
are allowed to wear the feathers in their headdress. Not surprisingly then, the Blue Crane is South
Africa’s national bird. However, this national bird with plumes fit for a king is disappearing, along with
our Wattled Cranes, Grey and Black Crowned Cranes.

14

Nature Reserves and Tourism

Platbos Nature Reserve The Slanghoek Mountain Resort lies in a picturesque valley,
surrounded by the majestic Slanghoek Mountains from which the
resort derives its name. The valleys geographic position, varied soils
and microclimate are reflected in the unique character of
Slanghoek’s internationally renowned and prize winning wines.

A 74 hectare portion of the farm was set aside in 2007 under a
Biodiversity Agreement with CapeNature in order to conserve the
endangered vegetation type Breede Alluvial Fynbos.

There are critically threatened seasonal meandering streams. These
streams are rocky, boulder bed, seasonal streams, and because they
are small and shallow, and meander over lower gradients they
support a different plant community from the larger river corridors.
The banks of the streams are peaty sands held together by plant
roots. Geissorhiza geminata, is listed in the Red Data Book of
threatened plants as “Endangered”; it is restricted to similar streams in
the upper Breede River valley and in the Koue Bokkeveld, areas
which have been heavily transformed by agriculture.

Welbedacht Nature Reserve

Welbedacht is a declared as Nature Reserve due to its high diversity of habitats as well as geographical
location:

Welbedacht covers the remaining corridor between Tulbagh Aluvium Fynbos, located in seasonal
wetlands in its lower areas and the upper portion bordering onto the Groot Winterhoek Mountain
Reserve with its Breede Shale and other types of Mountain Fynbos. In between these areas are large
Renosterveld elements and a huge number of Red Data species that were recorded by the Custodians
of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW).
Activities: Game viewing, hiking, fishing, birdwatching and swimming.

The Pontoon at Malgas

A wooden pontoon ferry was built in 1830 to cross the Breede River at Malgas. The village was originally
a Khoekhoe kraal, Malagas, that became an important inland harbour in the 19th century for the
transport of goods to Swellendam via the estuary. In 1862 a steel pontoon was built which was holed by
the British during the Anglo-Boer War. The existing steel pontoon was built in 1952 and is the last
human drawn ferry to carry people, vehicles and animals over a river in South Africa.

15

Populated Places

Ashton Most of the towns were Swellendam was
established in the 1800s: established in 1747 as a
Bonnievale Suurbraak and Elim as refreshment and repair
Ceres mission stations; station for travellers
De Doorns Caledon, originally between Cape Town
McGregor “Zwartbergbad” after and Mossel Bay. It is the
Montague hot springs in the area; third oldest district in
Rawsonville Worcester as a major South Africa after
Riviersonderend centre in the Boland; Cape Town and
Robertson Bredasdorp and Napier; Stellenbosch.
Swellendam Villiersdorp; Ceres, a
centre of fruit growing in Town 64km south-east of Worcester, in
Tulbagh the Warmbokkeveld; the Breede River Valley. Founded in
Villiersdorp Montagu with its thermal 1922 and named after the railway
springs; Grabouw; siding which had been called Vale
Witsand Struisbaai as a harbour; since its opening in 1902 and Bonnie
Wolseley Wolseley as the first Vale in 1917. Municipal status was
Worcester wool-washing centre in gained in April 1953.
South Africa; and
Barrydale. Towns which developed
more recently in the 1900s
were: Botrivier (named
Butter river because
Khoekhoe sold butter to
Europeans here);
Bonnievale; Gansbaai;
Riviersonderend (the
Hessequa name for the
river Zonderend was
Kanna-kam-kanne “water,
endless water”); and
Ashton which developed
round the southern
hemisphere’s biggest fruit
and vegetable canning
factory.

16

Dams

Koekedouw Dam Town 64km south-east of Worcester, in
the Breede River Valley. Founded in
This supplies water to the 1922 and named after the railway
Koekedouw Water User siding which had been called Vale
Association for irrigation, and since its opening in 1902 and Bonnie
also supplies the town of Ceres. Vale in 1917. Municipal status was
The Ceres dam was originally gained in April 1953.
built in 1954, approximately
9km from the source of the
Koekedouw river. an
earthquake damaged the
dam to such an extent that it
needed to be demolished and
was reconstructed entirely in
1998.

Capacity: 22.5 mil.cub.metres

Greater Brandvlei Dam

Off-channel storage dam, to a capacity of 342 million m3 by a
canal from diversions out of the Smalblaar and Holsloot Rivers
(tributaries of the Breede River).

This dam was formed by joining the original Brandvlei Dam (Lake
Marais) and the Kwaggaskloof Dam after reconstruction in 1989.

Brandvlei Dam, constructed in 1949 and raised in 1972, was
extended by the construction of Kwaggaskloof Dam to form the
Greater Brandvlei Dam. This dam is an off-channel storage dam
with a filled capacity of 342 million m3 (firm yield of 155 million
m3/a). The dam is filled mainly during the winter months via a
canal from diversions out of the Smalblaar and Holsloot Rivers.
During the summer irrigation period, water is released from the
dam into the Breede River to supplement river flows for use by a
number of water user associations. Water is also supplied
through pumping schemes directly from the dam to nearby
irrigation districts. The dam makes 22 million m3/a release of
water to reduce the salinity of the middle and lower Breede
River. The Department of Water Affairs owns and manages the
dam in partnership with Central Breede Water User Association.

Capacity: 342 mil.cub.metres

Roode-Elsberg Dam

Provides irrigation and domestic
water for De Doorns.

Roode-Elsberg Dam was built on the
Sandriftkloof River in 1968 and is the
largest thin-shell arch dam in the
country.

Capacity: 8mil.cub.metres

17

Dams

Stettynskloof Dam

Construction of the Stettynskloof Dam started in 1952. The work was undertaken by Beton und Monierbau
Aktiengesellschaft of Dusseldorf, Germany. Dr. Heinz Schulze was the head engineer and work was
completed in 1955.

Capacity: 15mil.cubic.metres

Theewaterskloof Dam

Theewaterskloof Dam is an earth-fill type dam located on the Riviersonderend near Villiersdorp, Western
Cape. Administratively it is located within Theewaterskloof Local Municipality. It was established in 1978
and forms a major component of the Western Cape Water Supply System. The dam mainly serves for
municipal and industrial use as well as for irrigation purposes.

Capacity: 487 mil.cub.metres

More dams in water management area:

Buffeljags Dam Buffeljags Dam on the
Keerom (Nuy) Dam Buffeljags River has a
Kwaggaskloof Dam capacity of 5,7 million m3
Lakenvallei Dam and a firm yield of 11
Osplaas Dam million m3/a.
Poortjieskloof The dam supplies water for
irrigation to the Buffeljags
Water User Association
and is required to make
environmental flow
releases.

18

Wetlands - Papenkuils

What is a wetland?

A wetland is wet land (i.e. land which is wet) ! But not all wet land results in a wetland. Why is this
so? A wetland is found where the land is wet enough (i.e. saturated or flooded) for long enough to
be unfavourable to most plants but are favourable to plants adapted to anaerobic soil conditions.
As soil becomes increasingly wet, the water starts to, fill the space; between the soil particles. When
all the spaces are filled with water the soil is said to be saturated. In areas which are not wetlands,
water drains away quickly and the soil does not remain saturated. However, in wetlands the water
persists or drains away very slowly and the soil remains saturated or flooded for long periods. Soil in
these conditions is said to be waterlogged. Depending on factors such as temperature, it usually
takes a week or so for the plant roots and other living organisms in the soil to use up the oxygen,
causing anaerobic conditions to develop in the waterlogged soil.

Papenkuils Wetlands

The Papenkuils Wetland is located next to Brandvlei Dam and downstream of the confluence of the
Smalblaar (Molenaars) and Breede Rivers. The wetland contains a variety of wetland and terrestrial flora
that are worthy of conservation and are not conserved elsewhere in the area. Upstream agricultural
activities including the diversion of Papenkuils Wetland inflow into Greater Brandvlei Dam are a threat to
the integrity of the wetland.
The problems include both reduced water inflow to the wetland as well as non-flow related impacts such
as invasive alien vegetation and habitat modification. An intermediate level ecological Reserve
determination was carried out for the Papenkuils Wetland. The results indicate that the present ecological
status category of the wetland is fair, contrasting with its ecological importance rating of high. This implies
that steps must be taken to rehabilitate the functioning of the wetland.

19

Breede Estuary

What is an estuary?
The most common definition for an estuary is that of Cameron and Pritchard (1963) that
states, "An estuary is a semi-enclosed coastal body of water which has a free
connection with the open sea and within which sea water is measurably diluted with
fresh water derived from land drainage".

The Breede River Estuary stretches roughly from 30 km above Malgas to the town of Witsand. The estuary has a
permanently open mouth and the channel is incised to depths of 3 to 6m or more. Tidal influence extends
beyond Malgas to approximately 80 km upstream of the mouth.
During summer when river flow is at its lowest, the system becomes more saline, while during the rainy season
salinities is usually much lower when stronger river flows limit the intrusion of seawater to the lower reaches. The
estuary is a large system covering 455ha and supports six of the possible nine plant community types, and 59
fish species from 30 families, of which nearly 40% are entirely dependent on estuaries. It is also considered to
provide a relatively important habitat for waterbirds. For these reasons the estuary is ranked 19th in South
Africa for estuarine conservation importance and has the 5th highest botanical importance score.
The recreational, nursery and scenic value of the estuary is also high. Currently the overall ecological health of
the Breede Estuary is considered to be good, with the largest impact being a reduction of river inflow. It is
recommended that the estuary condition be maintained in this state which is critically dependant on
maintaining a flow regime to the estuary which includes flood and low flows.

20

References

1. Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, South Africa. 2004. Breede Water
Management Area: Internal Strategic Perspective. Prepared by Ninham Shand
(Pty) Ltd in association with Jakoet & Associates, Umvoto Africa and Tlou and
Matji, on behalf of the Directorate: National Water Resource Planning. DWAF
Report No P WMA18/000/00/0304.

2. Rivers of the Breede Water Management Area 2011 - State of Rivers Report

3. BOCMA_CMS_Management Option Report_Aug10.

4. BreedeGouritzcma.co.za

5. www.capenature.co.za/stewardship sites

6. Wikipedia

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the following photographers for their contributions:

Dr Dirk van Driel
Mr Willem Botes
Mr Nico du Toit
Ms Elkarine Rossouw
eWISA - www.ewisa.co.za



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