Rain events based hillslope hydrological processes at the Langgewens Experimental Farm, Western Cape, South Africa

Wasserfall, Michiel Nicolaas (2013-03)

Thesis (MScAgric)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Hillslope hydrology represents a complex system with several interacting processes influencing the movement of water through the landscape. The Western Cape area of South Africa is expected to be impacted on by a change in climate and the importance of water management that will increase in the future. Climate, especially precipitation, is the driving factor behind the hydrological system and there are currently no predictions as to what the impact will be on the hydrological conditions. The main objective of the study is to understand the hydrological responses along a hillslope and secondly to determine the effect of climate change on the hydrology by using hydrological models. The studied system is situated on the Langgewens Experimental Farm, north of Malmesbury in the Swartland region of the Western Cape. Six sites in a range of vegetation, land use and expected soil types along a toposequence were investigated. All sites are rain fed areas with natural vegetation, seasonal or long-term shrubs. Through monitoring different components of the hydrological cycle, including rainfall, overland flow, infiltration, soil water content, base flow and water table depth at the different sites, the movement of water through the landscape can be defined. Hillslope hydrological processes at different positions on the hillslope were investigated. The baseline data obtained during this process was used in hydrological modelling for the different positions on the hillslope to determine the accuracy of model predictions. Expected future climatic conditions were emulated in this model to determine the possible effect of a change in climate on the hydrological system. The research confirmed the complex interaction between different processes within the hydrological system. At each point along the toposequence different components of the hydrological cycle contributed on a different scale to the hydrological system. Soil properties were the most significant factor influencing water movement through the landscape, directly impacting infiltration, overland flow, lateral water flow and deep percolation. This resulted in water table fluctuations through the seasons as the contribution of different components towards the hydrological cycle changed. By comparing soil water content measurements through the season with modelled water content levels, accurate hydrological models were created for different measuring points in the landscape. By using forecasted climate data of two different weather generators, accurate estimations of expected soil water content were possible. This indicated that droughts will occur on a regular basis in the future. This research made it possible to understand water movement through the landscape at hillslope level and contributed towards future water management plans by estimating future soil water content levels based on current predictions.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Heuwelhang hidrologie omskryf die proses van water beweging deur die landskap en dit word deur verskeie prosesse beinvloed. Onder huidige toestande word verwag dat die Weskaap provinsie van Suid-Afrika warmer en droëer sal word in die toekoms as gevolg van klimaatsverandering. Dit sal die noodsaaklikheid van effektiewe waterbestuur verhoog in die toekoms. Klimaat, en in besonder reënval, is die dryfkrag agter die hidrologiese sisteem en huidiglik is daar geen aanduiding van wat die effek van klimaatsverandering op die hidrologiese sisteem gaan wees nie. Die eerste doel van die studie is om die heuwelhang se hidrologiese sisteem te ontleed en tweedens om die impak van klimaatsverandering op die hidrologiese sisteem te bepaal deur gebruik te maak van hidrologiese modelle. Die studie area is geleë op die Langgewens Proefplaas, noord van Malmesbury in die Swartland distrik van die Weskaap. Ses verskillende posisies is op die heuwelhang geselekteer op grond van posisie in die landskap, plantegroei, landgebruik en verwagte grondvorms. Al die studiepunte ontvang slegs water deur reën en die landgebruik wissel ten opsigte van natuurlike plantegroei, en eenjarige- of meerjarige gewasse wat gevestig is. Deur verskillende komponente van die hidrologiese sisteem te monitor, insluitend reënval, oppervlak afloop, infiltrasie, grond water inhoud, laterale water vloei en die diepte van die watertafel, kan die beweging van water deur die landskap gedefinieër word. Die data wat versamel is gedurende die proses word gebruik om die akkuraatheid van die hidrologiese modelle se resultate te bepaal. Tesame met vooruitgeskatte klimaatdata kan die modelle gebruik word om die impak van klimaatsverandering op grondwater toestande vas te stel. Die navorsing toon die komplekse interaksie tussen verskillende prosesse in die hidrologiese sisteem. By elke punt in die landskap dra verskillende komponente op verskillende skale by tot die hidrologiese sisteem. Grondeienskappe het die meeste invloed op die verskillende komponente van die hidrologiese sisteem en beïnvloed die infiltrasie, oppervlak afloop, laterale water vloei en diep dreinering. Soos die verskillende komponente se bydrae tot die hidrologiese sisteem verander, vind daar fluktuasies in die diepte van die water tafel plaas. Deur die vergelyking van gemete grondwaterinhoud teen hidrologiese model voorspelde grondwaterinhoude, is akkurate hidrologiese modelle opgestel vir verskillende punte in die landskap. Deur gebruik te maak van twee moontlike verwagte klimaat toestande, is gevind dat droogtes op ‘n roetine basis in die toekoms sal voorkom. Die navorsing maak dit moontlik om die beweging van water deur die landskap te verstaan en dra by tot die opstelling van toekomstige waterbestuur planne. Dit word moontlik gemaak deur die vooruitskatting van grondwater inhoude gebasseer op verwagte klimaatsveranderinge en huidige grondwater toestande.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/80045
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