Original Research

Suspended silt concentrations in the lower Olifants River (Mpumalanga) and the impact of silt releases from the Phalaborwa Barrage on water quality and fish survival

Y. Buermann, H.H. Du Preez, G.J. Steyn, J.T. Harmse, A. Deacon
Koedoe | Vol 38, No 2 | a312 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v38i2.312 | © 1995 Y. Buermann, H.H. Du Preez, G.J. Steyn, J.T. Harmse, A. Deacon | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 August 1995 | Published: 26 August 1995

About the author(s)

Y. Buermann, Rand Afrikaans University, South Africa
H.H. Du Preez, Rand Afrikaans University, South Africa
G.J. Steyn, Rand Afrikaans University, South Africa
J.T. Harmse, Rand Afrikaans University, South Africa
A. Deacon, Rand Afrikaans University, South Africa

Full Text:



Silt loads in the Olifants and Sabie river systems inside the Kruger National Park, were monitored by collecting water samples every consecutive week for a period of 20 months. The variation in silt concentration, changes in selected physico-chemical water quality variables and fish mortalities during flushing (i.e. release of silt, by sluicing) of the Phalaborwa Barrage, were also monitored. The Olifants River inside the Kruger National Park carried high silt loads in summer; in the dry season the suspensoid load was greatly reduced. A similar pattern was observed in the Sabie River, but the silt loads were generally lower. It was apparent that silt loads released from the Phalaborwa Barrage led to large variations in the natural silt loads of the Olifants River. These increased amounts of silt (25 000 mg/1 to >70 000 mg/1) caused drastic reductions in the dissolved oxygen concentration of the water, ranging from >6 mg/1 to 0 mg/1. Depending on the severity and duration of the flushing, fish succumb to such silt loads. These findings, as well as published information, indicate that the management strategy of flushing to improve storage capacity is ecological unacceptable. It is therefore suggested that the use of the Phalaborwa Barrage as a future reservoir should be critically re-evaluated.


flood control, river, silt, fish, water quality


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Crossref Citations

1. Environmental Effects of Storage Preservation Practices: Controlled Flushing of Fine Sediment from a Small Hydropower Reservoir
Paolo Espa, Elena Castelli, Giuseppe Crosa, Gaetano Gentili
Environmental Management  vol: 52  issue: 1  first page: 261  year: 2013  
doi: 10.1007/s00267-013-0090-0