Hydrological impacts of land use change in three diverse South African catchments
School of Bioresources Engineering and Environmental Hydrology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, PBag X01, Scottsville 3209, South Africa
In order to meet society's needs for water, food, fuel and fibre, the earth's natural land cover and land use have been significantly changed. These changes have impacted on the hydrological responses and thus available water resources, as the hydrological responses of a catchment are dependent upon, and sensitive to, changes in the land use. The degree of anthropogenic modification of the land cover, the intensity of the land use changes and location of land uses within a catchment determines the extent to which land uses influences hydrological response of a catchment.The objective of the study was to improve understanding of the complex interactions between hydrological response and land use to aid in water resources planning. To achieve this, a hydrological model, viz. the ACRU agrohydrological model, which adequately represents hydrological processes and is sensitive to land use changes, was used to generate hydrological responses from three diverse, complex and operational South African catchments under both current land use and a baseline land cover. The selected catchments vary with respect to both land use and climate. The semi-arid sub-tropical Luvuvhu catchment has a large proportion of subsistence agriculture and informal residential areas, whereas in the winter rainfall Upper Breede catchment the primary land uses are commercial orchards and vineyards. The sub-humid Mgeni catchment is dominated by commercial plantation forestry in the upper reaches, commercial sugarcane and urban areas in the middle reaches, with the lower reaches dominated by urban areas.The hydrological responses of the selected catchments to land use change were complex. Results showed that the contributions of different land uses to the streamflow generated from a catchment is not proportional to the relative area of that land use, and the relative contribution of the land use to the catchment streamflow varies with the mean annual rainfall of the catchment. Furthermore, it was shown that the location of specific land uses within a catchment has a role in the response of the streamflow of the catchment to that land use change. From the Mgeni catchment, the significant role of the water engineered system on catchment streamflow was evident. Hydrological models have drawbacks associated with them due to inherent uncertainties. However, in this study the ACRU model proved to be a useful tool to assess the impacts of land use change on the hydrological response as impacts from the local scale to catchment scale could be assessed as well as the progression of impacts of land use changes as the streamflow cascades downstream through the catchment. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.
Annual rainfall; Anthropogenic modification; Available water; Baseline land cover; Catchment scale; Commercial plantation; Complex interaction; Engineered systems; Hydrological impacts; Hydrological models; Hydrological process; Hydrological response; Land cover; Land use change; Local scale; Relative contribution; Residential areas; Semi arid; Sub-humid; Subsistence agriculture; Urban areas; Water resources planning; Winter rainfall; Agriculture; Land use; Landforms; Rain; Runoff; Stream flow; Urban planning; Water resources; Catchments; agricultural land; anthropogenic effect; baseline conditions; catchment; hydrological modeling; hydrological response; land cover; land use change; orchard; plantation forestry; semiarid region; streamflow; subsistence; subtropical region; uncertainty analysis; vineyard; water availability; water planning; water resource; Breede River; KwaZulu-Natal; Luvuvhu Basin; Mgeni River; South Africa; Western Cape