Issue 11 ~ February 2019

The monthly newsletter of the Lower Breede River Conservancy Trust

The Berg-breede River whitefish

This fish species (Pseudobarbus capensis) is only found in the Berg and Breede River systems in the Western Cape, but this once common fish is only found in Brandvlei and Sandrif dams with a small population in the middle of the Breede River near the Brandvlei dam and the Hex and Koekedoe Rivers.

It is thought to be extinct in the Berg River. This previously abundant species started declining quickly with the introduction of smallmouth bass in the late 1930s in the two river systems. Habitat degradation has also impacted the numbers of this fish species in the Breede River system. The Berg-Breede River Whitefish is listed as endangered on the IUCN red data list.

There is an action recovery plan for this species to improve numbers and re-introduce it into its former range. It can reach 3.4 kg and over 60 cm total length.

Witsand Desalination Plant

LBRCT staff attended the plant open day hosted by Turnkey Water Solutions (TWA). Mr Patrice Boyer from TWA showed us around the desalination unit and the solar installation. Representatives from Mascara Renewable Water (France), CapeEAPrac and Anchor Environmental were also available to answer questions in their respective fields.

The origin of the plant dates back to 2015 when Hessequa municipality entered into an agreement with Stellenbosch University to develop new, innovative and sustainable projects. The project was initiated by Professor Erwin Schwella, Professor of Public Leadership at Stellenbosch and Tilburg Universities together with Hessequa municipality in 2017. Funding was secured through the French Treasury (50%) and the Western Cape Government Drought Relief Fund (50%).

The plant technology, OSMOSUN, is developed by French-based Mascara Renewable Water and marketed in South Africa by Turnkey Water Solutions. It is the world’s first reverse osmosis desalination technology coupled with photovoltaic solar energy without batteries or CO2 emissions.

Hessequa Municipality was granted a Section 30A Directive in terms of the National Environmental Management Act by the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs & Development Planning (DEADP) in June 2017 to start development. The project team consisted of Turnkey Water Solutions, Mascara Renewable Water, CapeEAPrac, Anchor Environmental, Meyer Beton, WML Coast, Renergy and Tristan Procurement Solutions.

Construction began on 17 October 2018 and was completed on 13 December 2018. The plant was fully operational on 20 December 2018.

The plant produces 100 kilolitres of drinking water per day on solar energy alone (73 kilowatt), with a maximum capacity of 300 kilolitres if also grid powered at night. Witsand’s average daily water demand averages above 200 kilolitres a day and peak season demand in December 2018 ramped up to 720 kilolitres per day. The plant is intended to secure the Witsand water supply and is not intended provide additional water capacity for further development.

The National Department of Environmental Affairs: Oceans & Coast issued a Coastal Waters Discharge Permit (CWDP) with set parameters that the plant effluent needs to adhere to. The maximum salinity value allowed by the CWDP is 38 PSU (Practical Salinity Units) at the edge of the 5 metre mixing zone. The average PSU measured by the probe was 31 PSU, well within the set parameters, and close to the ambient PSU we measured around the area. The plant is remotely controlled via the internet by TWS and Mascara Renewable Water, and is continuously monitored to ensure its operational levels stay within the CWDP parameters.

If you are interested in reading up on the original specifications and environmental management plan, please click the button below.

To buoy, or not to buoy

In November 2018 we were preparing for our seasonal obstacle buoy marking, and asked on Facebook if anybody had any clean, brightly coloured drums to donate. At the same time, we were approached by upriver estate Riverine to assist demarcating areas to keep speeding boats away from jetties and swimming areas. We were subsequently informed that any navigational aids have to be in compliance with SAMSA regulations.

We promptly contacted SAMSA for advice and discovered a myriad of regulations that need to be complied with.


South Africa is a Member State to the United Nations (UN). The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is a specialised agency of the UN and its main task includes the maintenance of a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping. IMO is responsible for a number of maritime related treaties, including the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, as amended. SOLAS Chapter V addresses Safety of Navigation, and in particular, Regulation 13 addresses Aids to Navigation (AtoN).

South Africa is also a Member of the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) and therefore has the duty to observe and implement IALA Recommendations.

South Africa is also a Member of the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO), which is an intergovernmental consultative and technical organisation established to support safety of navigation and the protection of the marine environment. The IHO relies on acquiescence of its Member States and the inclusion of its standards and specifications in IMO conventions, such as reflected in SOLAS.

  • The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) is a statutory body established in terms of the SAMSA Act 5 of 1998. Section 78 of the National Ports Act 12 of 2005 makes provision for SAMSA to determine the standards of AtoN within port limits and along the coast of the RSA and to administer and execute the relevant maritime legislation.


Cognisance should be taken that any entity with the responsibility to establish AtoN, be it a national or local entity, cannot pass on the liability and the accountability attributed in having to establish and maintain such AtoN, to an external party, such as a service provider (contracting out, or outsourcing), etc.

Buoy specifications

For our needs to mark navigational hazards such as submerged tree stumps specific port hand buoys are required. See specifications for isolated danger and cardinal markers below in the images below.

For Riverine the following specification were advised by SAMSA:

Round demarcation markers should not be less than any of the following diameters: ±400 mm Ø, ±500 mm Ø or ±600 mm Ø

Cylindrical demarcation marker will only be of a prescribed colour and shall have the following minimum dimensions:

(a) Total Length: Between 0.850 m and 0.950 m

(b) Length of Parallel sides: Between 0.400 m and 0.500 m

(c) Diameter of Buoy: Between 0.300 m and 0.350 m

Port Hand buoys are to be placed at each the end of the demarcation markers, and also in between the buoys at the end, depending on the distance of the area in question.

The colours and shapes of the navigational buoys and top marks shall comply with the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities IALA) Recommendations and Guidelines:

  • IALA Maritime Buoyage System for Region A; and
  • Surface colours used as visual signals on aids to navigation - IALA chromaticity areas as plotted on the 1983 CIE chromaticity diagram

These buoys shall have the following minimum dimensions:

(a) Total Length (Height): Between 1.100 m & 1.300 m

(b) Length (Height) above Water Line: Between 0.900 m & 1.100 m

(c) Diameter at Water Line: Between 0.500 m & 0.650 m

(d) Diameter at Top of Buoy: Between 0.150 m & 0.200 m

In terms of the mooring blocks, Marine Grade 316 Stainless Steel rod, minimum 10 mm Ø, should be utilised as reinforcement for concrete mooring blocks. The rod should be bent and welded with 2 x 150 mm long bars at the bottom.

Added to this the buoys need to be GPS located and a maintenance plan needs to be entered into to ensure the buoys did not move and are clearly visible.

Where do matters now stand?

This is a more complex, onerous and expensive undertaking than originally anticipated and requires planning, inspections, a maintenance plan, costings and SAMSA approvals before any implementation can proceed. The LBRCT will progress matters to a point where decisions on feasibility and funding are required.

For further reading, below are a list of links for all the AtoN regulations:

Marine Notice No. 8 of 2016 Standards for Aids to Navigation in South African waters and Inland Waterways

Directive for the Standardisation of fixed and floating Aids to Navigation and Demarcation Markers on all navigable Inland Waterways in the Republic of South Africa

February water quality data

As part of an ongoing long-term project to monitor monthly variations of environmental parameters such as salinity, temperature and dissolved oxygen levels at 21 sites from the Breede River Estuary mouth to the pont at Malgas. The salinity values for February at Gov. Slip was 36.76 and increased to 36.93 at Mudlark. The salinity then decreased as we went further up the Breede River Estuary until it reached 3.5 at Malgas. The change in salinity in the estuary is a result of seawater having less of an influence one moves further upstream. The Breede River is 322 km in length with the tidal influence (impact of seawater) recorded up to 60 km upstream, which means the water is still slightly salty even 50 km upstream at the pont.

The water temperature recorded during the water quality run increased from the mouth towards the pont at Malgas. The biggest increase in water temperature between two sites occurred between Karoolskraal and Goudmyn with a 1.34 °C increase. The highest water temperature occurred at Dave Taylor at 26.81 °C. The summer spatial variation in values (increasing temperature values from the mouth to upper reaches of estuary) is a result of the lower reaches of the Breede River Estuary being influenced by the temperature of sea water while upstream it is influenced by warmer atmospheric temperatures.

Site:Salinity (PSU)Temperature (⁰C)Turbidity (m)
Gov. Slip36.7622.354.5
13km from RM32.3225.141.7
White House31.0525.261.6
17km from RM29.0125.291.6
Bush Pub22.6325.851.6
Blue Gums16.4926.192.4
33km from RM11.6226.31.9
35km from RM9.0326.431.4
Dave Taylor5.1426.811.5
39km from RM4.526.241.4

February bird count

Our conservator and a part-time ranger went out on the Breede River Estuary for the monthly bird counts. From the mouth to the pont at Malgas, a total of 957 birds were seen from 36 families. The mudflats were the most productive habitat. The most abundant bird (206 birds) was the non-breeding summer migrant, Common-Ringed Plover. These birds are present from September to April in southern Africa and prefer muddy estuaries/lagoons. A total of 7 species that visit the Breede River Estuary during summer were recorded. The next three abundant birds were the resident Egyptian geese (158 birds), Yellow-billed ducks (123 birds) and Sacred Ibis (49 birds).

African Darter2
African Fish Eagle4
African Spoonbill3
Barn Swallow1
Black Oystercatcher2
Blacksmith Lapwing10
Brown-throated Martin4
Cape Cormorant1
Cape shoveller5
Cape wagtail1
Cape Weaver2
Caspian Tern2
Common Greenshank12
Common Sandpiper2
Common Tern20
Common-ringed Plover214
Egyptian Goose158
Grey Heron6
Grey Plover39
Hadeda Ibis3
Jackal Buzzard2
Kelp Gull90
Little Egret9
Pied Avocet5
Red-billed Teal19
Red-eyed dove2
Reed Cormorant7
Sacred Ibis49
Sandwich tern39
South African Shelduck31
Spur-winged Goose2
Swift Tern43
White-breasted Cormorant2
Wood Sandpiper1
Yellow-billed Duck123
Grand Total957

February marine debris

The litter found from Blokke to the tidal pool mainly consisted of fishing related litter with 41% of all litter comprising of fishing line. In total 48m of fishing line was picked up on this short stretch of beach. The other main litter that was recorded was small pieces of plastic and glass and this accounted for 10% of the litter. Plastic bottles, bags and packaging were also frequently picked up.

Gov. slip to Skuitbaai beach litter was dominated by small plastic pieces that are often overlooked and even though a beach might look clean, it has lots of plastic smaller than 1cm in size. This accounted for 29% of the litter picked up. Plastic items from small pieces through to grocery bags accounted for 42% of the litter on this stretch of beach. Cigarette butts are still a problem on many of the beaches in Witsand and accounted for 16% of the litter on this stretch of beach. We ask if smokers could not throw their butts of the ground and dispose of them in proper cigarette butt bins placed around Witsand beaches. The LBRCT is working on putting more up in the area.

Oysterbeds through to Groenpunt still has a problem with broken alcohol bottle pieces with 28% of the litter picked up small pieces of glass. According to municipal signage drinking from glass bottles is not allowed on Witsand beaches, but we all enjoy having sundowners on the beach. We just ask that everyone takes their bottles with them once they leave the beach. Broken glass on the beach is also a safety issue. Plastic bags (13%), particularly the bags that come with sardine boxes were the second most important litter recorded. This was followed by cooldrink bottles (8%) and food wrappers such a chip packets, chocolate wrappers (6%).

Witsand main beach litter was dominated by small plastic pieces (45%), followed by discarded fishing line (16%). Plastic bottle caps, particularly coke bottles, was the third most abundant litter and accounted for 9% of the litter. Plastic and foam packaging accounted for 7% of the litter picked up.

Beverage bottles (glass)91.50%
Beverage bottles (plastic)203.33%
Beverage cans50.83%
Bottle caps (plastic)325.33%
Bottles caps (metal)10.17%
Cigarette Butts325.33%
Cotton spool20.33%
Cups and Plates (Foam)10.17%
FIshing Bouys, traps10.17%
Fishing Gear508.33%
Fishing line589.67%
Fishing nets10.17%
Foam pieces233.83%
Fod wrappers71.17%
Food wrappers132.17%
Forks, Knives10.17%
Freezer brick10.17%
Glass pieces427.00%
Grocery bags40.67%
Hessian Bag10.17%
Lids (plastic)20.33%
Other pastic bags10.17%
Other plastic bags335.50%
Other plastic bottles81.33%
Other plastic/Foam packaging325.33%
Paper bags10.17%
Pen lid10.17%
Plastic lure10.17%
Plastic pieces14824.67%
Plastic pipe10.17%
Strapping bands111.83%
Take away containers (Plastic)10.17%
Tobacco packaging20.33%
Grand Total600100.00%

Thank you for reading

We hope you enjoyed this months' issue. Should you have any feedback, questions, or matters you would like us to cover in a future issue, please do not hesitate to write to us at news@breede-river.org. 


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