At a basin or sub-basin scale, particularly in semi-arid and arid areas, priority is often placed on monitoring and management of water quantity. However, the issue of monitoring and management of water quality is equally important. Issues surrounding water quality are particularly important given increasing pressure from legacy impacts of the mining industry; most specifically from Acid Mine Drainage.
Water quality is often characterised in terms of the concentration of different substances in water. Factors that determine “good” or “bad” water quality depend on the purpose of the assessment. For example, water with elevated concentrations of some metals may be unsafe to drink, but still suitable for industrial uses. Water quality assessments involve comparing measured chemical concentrations with natural, background, or baseline concentrations, and with guidelines established to protect human health or ecological communities. This chapter defines physical, chemical, biological and spiritual water quality characteristics, and explains how human activities contribute to water quality problems in the basin.
This chapter covers the following concepts and material:
The Richtersveld region, South Africa/Namibia.
Source: ©iStockphoto/ Roode 2008
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