Assessing the effect of the Kars Wetland on flow attenuation in the Cape Agulhas, South Africa
Hans, Damian Trevor
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The Kars has a well-defined channel along the 62 km stretch from its sources in the Bredasdorp Mountains. After entering the Agulhas plain which has a very low gradient, this river changes into a triangular shaped wetland. This wetland is 7 km in length with no defined channel running through it. The wetland then discharges into another 7 km long channel that joins the Heuningnes River with its mouth at the Indian Ocean. The presence of the wetland causes frequent flooding which affects cultivated lands and a major highway linking towns on the coastal Cape Agulhas area with the rest of the country. Before this study, there was no monitoring of flows along the Kars River including water levels within the wetland. Consequently, the conditions leading to flooding of the wetlands were unknown. This study is aimed at understanding how the combination of local rainfall, Kars River inflow into the wetland, soil characteristics, and the morphology of the wetland influence flooding/inundation. The study monitored river inflows into and outflows from the wetland. A soil survey was conducted within the wetland using the augering method and an infiltrometer to determine soil type and infiltration rates. This was done to assess the hydrological characteristics of the wetland. Using the collected climate data and river flow data, a conceptual model was developed for predicting downstream outflows and possible flood events on a daily timescale. The results indicated that the Kars wetland comprises soil with high silt and clay content, and low infiltration capacity. The wetland causes flood attenuation and diffuse surface flows. Low infiltration rates result in ponding of local rainfall which can contribute to flooding.