4. Hydrology and Geohydrology
8. Populated Places
The Breede River Valley is one of the major fruit and wine producing areas in South Africa.
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
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 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 andis 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 theWorcester 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 more gentle 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
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-
Boesmans River DORING RIVER
Doring River KINGNA RIVER
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.
The topography of the Breede-Overberg area is characterised by the Franschoek and Du Toit's
Mountains in the west, the Hex River Mountains to the north and the Langeberg Mountains in the east,
with a wide Breede River valley and the rolling hills of the Overberg in the south.
The profile of the Breede River (from the origin near Ceres to the mouth at Witsand) is illustrated
Upper Breede: Quartzitic Table Mountain sandstone, Bokkeveld and Malmesbury shales, Enon
Central Breede: Quartzitic Table Mountain sandstone, Bokkeveld and Malmesbury shales.
Lower Breede: Table Mountain and Witteberg sandstone, Bokkeveld shales, Enon conglomerate,
Hydrology Hydrology and Geohydrology
The total Mean Annual Runoff (MAR) of the Breede
River is 1803 million m3/a. The contribution from the
Upper Breede, Riviersonderend and the Lower Breede
are 1092, 439, 272 million m3/a respectively.
The current estimate of actual groundwater use in the Breede River catchments is 103 million m3/a,
much of which is abstracted out of the alluvial aquifers, and the Bokkeveld and Karoo fractured rock
aquifers. The Table Mountain Group aquifers of the Upper Breede sub-area are a potential source of
supply, both for in-catchment use and for supply to the Berg Water Management.
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
The Breede River estuary is one of the most valuable in the country but also the most threatened in
terms of upstream development.
The Breede River is home to a unique indigenous fish fauna and the system has four recognised primary
freshwater fish species. These are the Berg-Breede whitefish, Burchell's redfin, Cape Galaxias and the
The longfin eel are also known to occur in the Breede system along with some estuarine round-herring
and the oval moony.
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 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.
The mean annual 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 WMA in winter, typically between mid-May and late August.
Most of the rain falls between the months of May and August. An all year round rainfall pattern prevails
in the far south-east. Occasional snowfalls occur on the mountains in the south-west and north-west of
the Water Management Area during most winters. In the high mountainous regions in the south-west,
the maximum MAP exceeds 3 000mm, but rainfall is as low 250mm in the central and north-eastern
Breede River valley and other interior valleys. The average potential mean annual evaporation
(measured by S-Pan) ranges from 1200 mm in the south to 1700 mm in the north of the Water
Rainfall is mostly Winter to all year.
Agricultural Land Uses
Decidious fruit - Wine grapes: Viticulture is an important
practice in the Breede River Valley.
Intensive irrigation takes place along the Breede and
Riviersonderend Rivers and in their tributary valleys. Irrigated
crop types include orchard crops, vineyards for wine and table
grapes, citrus, as well as some cash crops and lucerne.
Afforestation is confined to the high rainfall mountainous areas,
almost entirely in the Upper Riviersonderend River catchments.
Land-use is characterised by large expanses of dry land
cultivation In the southern Overberg areas agricultural activities
mostly relate to large expanses of dry land cultivation, where
wheat is the predominant crop type.
Land-use consists of large expanses of dry land cultivation in the
southern Overberg areas, where wheat is the main crop
type. Intensive irrigation takes place along the Breede
River. Irrigated crop types include orchard crops, vineyards for
wine and table grapes, citrus, as well as some cash crops and
Livestock farming is practiced throughout the region.
Nature Conservation, Reserves and Tourism
The Breede River and its tributaries contain sensitive aquatic ecosystems and support ecologically
important wetlands and estuaries (an example is the Papenkuils Wetland in the Upper Breede). The
Breede River estuary is one of the most valuable estuaries in the country but also the most threatened
in terms of upstream development.
Ashton Populated Places
Mc Gregor Witsand
Capacity: 5.2 mil.cub.m
Elandskloof Dam: Capacity: 11.4 mil.cub.m
River Course: Elands River
The Ceres dam was originally 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.
The dam supplies water to the Koekedouw Water User Association for irrigation, and
also supplies the town of Ceres.
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
The Theewaterskloof Dam is not a significant achievement in itself – being as it is only the
seventh largest dam in South Africa (and12 times smaller than Gariep Dam.) However, it
forms part of the one of the most imaginative water transfer schemes in South Africa which
links the Berg and Sonderend rivers in the Western Cape. (Lani v Vuuren, Water Wheel - May/June 2011)
1. South African Estuaries. Catchment land-cover. Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.
2. Rivers of the Breede Water Management Area 2011 - State of Rivers Report.
3. 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.
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