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The Environmental problems with the Hennops River are massive and complex. The problems have been developing over the last 50 years, as urbanisation along the river has increased.


Two tributaries, the Sesmylspruit and Kaalspruit/Olifantspruit, join together to form headwaters of the Hennops River.  The Hennops River and the Jukskei River join the Crocodile River which feeds into the Hartbeespoort Dam.


What happens at the headwaters of the Hennops River affects all of the water resources downstream.


While the Sesmylspruit (which comes from Rietvlei Dam) is relatively clean, pollution in the Kaalspruit has become more and more of a problem with extensive urbanisation, both in terms of formal, informal and industrial townships polluting and increasing the flow in the river.


The main problems in the Kaalspruit are:


  • High E.coli Counts and Conductivity

  • Solid Waste (Litter)

  • Erosion

  • Sedimentation


E.coli counts in regions are in the hundreds of thousands, and in some places, in the millions. An acceptable level is less than 200 mg/l. The extremely high levels of E.coli in the Hennops River system pose serious threats to public health. The main contributing factors to the high E.coli counts are waste water flowing into the river and over-flowing sewers caused by misuse and vandalism.  Foam can be seen where the water is turbulent, for example at a weir. This foam is attributed to sewerage and waste water.



The Conductivity in regions is in the thousands. Conductivity is an indication of excess salts, which is an indication of industrial pollution.


Litter finds its way into the storm water system and is washed into the river when it rains.


Erosion is caused by storm water, illegal sand mining of river banks and damaged river systems.


The eroded sand is deposited downstream by siltation and has completely destroyed the Centurion Lake.


Below are photographs illustrating some of these problems:





Map from “The water quality and associated problems of the Hennops River and proposed rehabilitative measures” by Ryan Nawn, Thesis (M.Sc. in environmental management)--Rand Afrikaans University, 2004.

It is clear from these photographs that the problems not only affect the river, but have a terrible impacts on the lives of people living in these areas. People should not have to live in these conditions.


In addition to the constant sources of pollution described above, there are sporadic incidents of extremely high pollution which have not been accounted for. Two such incidents are described below.

This photograph was taken at the Irene Dairy farm on 9 May 2018. It is a photo of the Hennops River just below a weir. The weir causes foam to form and there is usually a small amount of foam on this section of the river. The foam on 9 May was over a meter in depth. This is out of the ordinary and indicates an incident upstream.

This photograph was taken at the same location on 14 May 2018. On this day the river turned black from the afternoon until at least sunset. This was accompanied by a terrible smell. By the next morning the river was no longer black. This again is out of the ordinary and indicates an incident upstream.

The culprits responsible for these incidents need to be located and prosecuted.


  • Littering

  • Poor or no solid waste removal

  • Illegal waste sites

  • Illegal dumping of building rubble in the floodplain

  • Ill-managed storm water system

  • Flooding

  • Sewage overflows 

  • Ill-managed sewer systems

  • Polluted water

  • Erosion of river banks

  • Erosion of the Olifantsfontein Wetland

  • Invader plants

  • No community involvement




  • Recycling

  • Ownership of parks

  • Report overflowing manholes

  • Awareness campaigns

  • School competitions- recycling, beautify area around schools

  • NGO’s


  • Department of  Water and Sanitation

  • Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

  • Department of Environmental Affairs

  • City of Johannesburg

  • City of Tshwane

  • Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality

  • Community representatives

  • Working for Wetlands

  • Concerned citizens/ property  owners



  • Community based programmes and awareness campaigns to reduce littering and overflowing sewerage through waste collection, recycling, open space maintenance and blocked sewer reporting system

  • Construction and maintenance of nature parks in Tembisa and Ivory Park

  • Litter collection next to stormwater channels and streams

  • Cleaning the river banks and floodplains

  • Recycling


  • Collecting litter

  • Remove building rubble and prevent further dumping

  • Construct:

    • Litter traps

    • Silt traps

  • Preventative measures:

    • Rehabilitate river banks

    • Develop parks

    • Construct Wetlands

  • Implement flood attenuation measures

  • Ongoing maintenance of sewage system and efficient response to sewage blockages

  • Address stormwater management

  • Ensure that no pollution occurs at industries and filling stations


  • Catchment Map

  • Presentation Johannesburg Water Sewer Issues, May 2013

  • City of Tshwane Water Quality Report for Hennops River Forum, 2 September 2008

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