The anthropogenic impacts of urbanization and industrialisation on the water quality, ecology and health status of the Palmiet River catchment in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
Water, a fundamental and irreplaceable resource, is an all-pervasive issue that underpins the social fabric of every society. Rapid population growth and expansion of human activities increases the amount of waste and pollution generated and many local authorities are encountering serious water pollution problems, often concentrated in the lower reaches of catchments and adjacent coastal areas. This problem is predominantly acute in urbanized catchment areas, where waste is concentrated into localized areas, and the authorities are constantly under pressure to provide adequate management and mitigation measures. The Palmiet River system, located in the northern fringe of the city of Durban and draining the highly industrialized Pinetown region in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, illustrates a system that has been altered due to human impacts, particularly in its headwaters where the industrial sites are located and, in the lower catchment where a densely populated informal settlement occurs. A range of chemical and biotic indicators were monitored seasonally and these confirm the influence of the aforementioned human impacts on the quality of the Palmiet River system. Results from the present study were compared with studies conducted over a period of two decades and clearly demonstrate a pattern of increasing pollution loads for the upper and lower parts of the catchment. This study confirms that the Palmiet River is severely degraded in its lower reaches whilst the middle reaches of the catchment where a nature reserve is located is still in a fairly pristine condition. Additionally, the Palmiet River issues discussed in this thesis have direct impacts on the estuarine and adjacent marine ecosystems.