Waterberg District (South Africa)
& Limpopo River Basin

Authors: Silvia Krautzik

Waterberg District

Waterberg District lies within the Limpopo Province of South Africa. The spatial extent of Waterberg District is about 44,913 km². The Waterberg District is divided into five local municipalities: Mogalakwena, Modimolle-Mookgopong, Belabela, Thabazimbi, and Lephalala (Tjale et al., 2022).

Moreover, the Waterberg is the first region in northern South Africa with a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Tourism is the primary source of income for the locals living in the Biosphere Reserve. Agricultural activities are also practiced (Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, n.d.).

Waterberg district’s climate is semi-arid, and limited water resources. However, the population uses most of the land area for agricultural purposes, mainly commercial farming. The farmers’ cash and field crops are cottons, sunflower, maize, wheat, and sorghum. Other agricultural activities include horticulture and livestock production (Netshipale et al., 2022). Besides agriculture, mining iron, platinum, and coal remain a primary economic activity within the district ( Department of Environmental Affairs, n.d.).

From a hydrological perspective, five catchments fall within the administrative boundaries of the Waterberg District: The Lower Crocodile River Sub-catchment, the Mokolo (or Mogol) River Catchment, the Lephalala River Catchment, Mogalakwena River Catchment, and a small area of the Olifants River Catchment. Most of these rivers flow towards the North-West and drain into the Limpopo River Basin.

Landuse in the Waterberg District and the Limpopo River Basin

Figure 1: Landuse in the Waterberg District and the Limpopo River Basin (Map by Juan Miguel Viquez & Daniel Knopp).

Due to low rainfall in the Waterberg District, land uses such as farming and conservation compete with high-intensity land uses such as urban development and mining. Therefore, sustainable water and general resource management is a crucial challenge for the region.

Limpopo River Basin

The Limpopo River is about 1,700 km long and represents one of Southern Africa's major river systems. The Limpopo river basin is a transboundary one shared by South Africa (45 %), Botswana (20 %), Mozambique (20 %), and Zimbabwe (15 %) (Gbetibouo, 2009; Trambauer et al., 2015).

The river drains an area of about 415,500 km2, stretching across different countries and climate zones. Due to the diverse climate in the basin, agricultural activities are also diverse (Gbetibouo, 2009; Trambauer et al., 2015). There are large commercial and small-scale agricultural farms within the basin, and farmers practice dry farming as well as irrigated farming or livestock production (Gbetibouo, 2009).

The rainfall in the basin is highly variable, which results in frequent droughts. For instance, estimations suggest that southern Africa's 1991/92 drought affected around 86 million peopl, particularly their food security and financial assets (Trambauer et al., 2015).

Climate extremes are already threatening people's livelihoods in the basin and remain a critical management task regarding natural resources. Nevertheless, the IPPC expects climate change to exacerbate the basin's environmental, economic, and social challenges. Hence, one of the basin's critical challenges is finding adaptation measures for climate change impacts and overall sustainable management strategies (Gbetibouo, 2009; Niang et al., 2014).



The Department of Environmental Affairs (n.d.): Waterberg District Environmental Management Framework Report. Available at: https://www.dffe.gov.za/sites/default/files/docs/waterberg_finalreport.pdf

Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (n.d.): Environmental Management Framework for the Waterberg District. Status Quo Report. Available at: https://www.dffe.gov.za/sites/default/files/docs/waterberg_statusquo_finalreport.pdf

Gbetibouo, G.A. (2009): Understanding farmers' perceptions and adaptations to climate change and variability: The case of the Limpopo Basin, South Africa. IFPRI DISCUSSION PAPER.

Netshipale, A.J.; Raidimi, E.N.; Mashiloane, M.L.; de Boer, I.J.M.; Oosting, S.J. (2022): Farming system diversity and its drivers in land reform farms of the Waterberg District, South Africa, Land Use Policy (117), doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2022.106116

Niang, I., O.C. Ruppel, M.A. Abdrabo, A. Essel, C. Lennard, J. Padgham, and P. Urquhart (2014): Africa. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part B: Regional Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, [Barros, V.R., C.B. Field, D.J. Dokken, M.D. Mastrandrea, K.J. Mach, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L. White (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 1199-1265.

Tjale, M.M.; Mwale, M.; Kilonzo, B.M. (2022): Production Performance among The Restitution Farm Beneficiaries in Waterberg District, South Africa. Journal of Agribusiness and Rural Development Research, 8(1), 1-19, DOI:10.18196/agraris.v8i1.11276

Trambauer, P., Werner, M., Winsemius, H. C., Maskey, S., Dutra, E., and Uhlenbrook, S. (2015): Hydrological drought forecasting and skill assessment for the Limpopo River basin, southern Africa, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 1695–1711, https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-19-1695-2015



Alexandra Nauditt: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Waterberg District is a pilot area within the Open Science to Support Water Security in Southern Africa (OWASA) research project


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