A preliminary assessment of the hydrodynamics of the Touw River and Wilderness Lakes system with emphasis on the management of the estuary mouth

Donald, Ian R. (2013-12)

Thesis (MEng)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The Touw River estuary and Wilderness coastal lakes is a sensitive system from a flooding and ecological viewpoint and, therefore, careful consideration is placed on the hydrodynamics and salinity levels within the system. The estuary consists of a “temporary open/closed” estuary, where during closed mouth conditions, the sand bar at the estuary mouth is artificially managed in an attempt to reduce flood water levels in the system. The reason behind this management strategy is the construction of residential property along the flood plains of the estuary and coastal lakes, which in the past, had been exposed to regular cycles of inundation during flood events. In an attempt to reduce flood water levels in all water bodies and hence reduce the risk of inundation, a management policy was formulated. The past and present management plan is to maintain the sand bar at Touw estuary mouth, during closed mouth conditions, at an elevation of between +2.1m to +2.4m MSL, based on proposals made by the CSIR in 1981. Recent flood events, after the implementation of the management policy, still occasionally result in significant inundation of residential property, which has raised concern for some interested parties over the effectiveness of the management strategy. Furthermore, a growing concern was also evident over the long term wellbeing of the system from an ecological viewpoint. Historical data shows significant changes in salinity levels since the implementation of the management strategy which could impose negative long term effects on the system. In this study, numerical models were consequently constructed and applied in order to analyse the effectiveness of the current management policy and recalculate flood water levels under a number of proposed scenarios. Long term salinity changes were also analysed in an attempt to better understand salinity propagation throughout the system, using extreme hypothetical cases. Through the analysis of the simulation results, it was concluded that flood water levels in the Touw estuary were almost completely dependent on the size of the Touw River flood and the initial height of the sand bar at the estuary mouth. Whereas, water levels in the coastal lakes are almost entirely dependent on the quantity of runoff into the lakes and their initial water levels. The current management plan, involving only artificial manipulation of the sand bar at the estuary mouth, therefore has a fairly insignificant effect on flood water levels achieved in the coastal lakes. Furthermore, it was concluded that the construction of the preparatory channel is a vitally important aspect of the current management plan and that skimming of the sand bar alone is ineffective to completely mitigate the risk of residential inundation along the banks of the Touw River. The salinity modelling study provided a first indication of the salinity characteristics within the system. It was found that the penetration of seawater into the system was less prominent as the water bodies became further removed from the ocean and that a direct relationship was evident between the volume of direct freshwater inflow to a water body and the degree of salinity variation in that specific water body. In water bodies with high volumes of direct freshwater inflow such as the Touw estuary, a large degree of salinity variation is evident. However, in water bodies with no freshwater inflow, such as Rondevlei, salinity levels remain more stable and are less likely to fluctuate.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Uit ‘n vloed- en ekologiese oogpunt is die Touwsriviermonding en Wilderniskusmere ‘n uiters sensitiewe stelsel en daar is dus deeglike oorweging gegee aan die hidrodinamika en soutvlakke in die stelsel. Die monding bestaan uit 'n "tydelike oop / geslote" monding, en tydens geslote mondtoestande word die sandbank by die riviermond kunsmatig beheer in 'n poging om vloedwatervlakke binne die stelsel te verminder. Die rede vir hierdie strategie is omdat baie residensiële eiendomme langs die vloedvlaktes van die monding en kusmere gebou is, wat in die verlede aan 'n gereelde siklus van oorstromings blootgestel is tydens vloede. In 'n poging om vloedwatervlakke in al die watermassas te verminder, en sodoende die risiko van oorstroming te verminder, is 'n bestuursbeleid geformuleer. In beide die vorige en die huidige bestuursplanne is die sandbank in die Touwsriviermond tydens geslote mondtoestande in stand gehou op 'n hoogte van tussen 2,1 m en 2,4 m MSL, gebaseer op die voorstelle wat deur die WNNR in 1981 gemaak is. Onlangse vloede wat plaasgevind het na die implementering van die beleid, het steeds van tyd tot tyd gelei tot noemenswaardige oorstromings van residensiële eiendomme, en kommer is uitgespreek deur 'n paar belanghebbende partye oor die doeltreffendheid van die strategie vir die bestuur. Daar is verder kommer uitgespreek oor die langtermyn welstand van die stelsel uit 'n ekologiese oogpunt. Historiese data toon 'n beduidende verandering in soutvlakke sedert die implementering van die bestuurstrategie met ‘n negatiewe langtermyn uitwerking op die stelsel. In hierdie studie is daar derhalwe numeriese modelle opgestel en toegepas ten einde die doeltreffendheid van die huidige bestuur van die beleid te bepaal, asook om die vloedvlakke te herbereken en te analiseer na aanleiding van 'n aantal voorgestelde scenario's. Langtermyn soutgehalte veranderinge is ook ontleed in 'n poging om die soutgehalte verspreiding deur die hele stelsel beter te verstaan, deur gebruik te maak van uiterste hipotetiese gevalle. Deur die ontleding van die simulasie resultate, is daar tot die gevolgtrekking gekom dat vloedwatervlakke in die Touwsrivier-monding byna heeltemal afhanklik was van die grootte van die Touwsrivier vloed en die aanvanklike hoogte van die sandbank by die riviermond. Watervlakke in die kusmere is egter byna heeltemal afhanklik van die hoeveelheid afloop na die mere en die aanvanklike watervlakke. Die huidige bestuursplan, wat slegs ‘n kunsmatige manipulasie van die sandbank by die riviermond behels, het dus 'n redelik onbeduidend invloed op die vloedwatervlakke wat in die kusmere bereik is. Daar is verder tot die gevolgtrekking gekom dat die konstruksie van die voorbereidende kanaal 'n uiters belangrike aspek van die huidige bestuursplan is, en dat die afskraping van die sandbank alleen oneffektief sou wees om die risiko van residensiële oorstroming langs die oewer van die Touwsrivier uit te skakel. Die soutgehalte modelleringstudie verskaf 'n eerste aanduiding van die soutgehalte eienskappe binne die stelsel. Daar is gevind dat die penetrasie van seewater in die stelsel minder prominent was as in die watermassas verder van die see af, en dat daar 'n duidelike direkte verband is tussen die volume van die varswater wat direk invloei na 'n watermassa en die mate van soutgehalte variasie in daardie spesifieke watermassa. In watermassas waar hoë volumes varswater direk invloei soos die Touwsrivier-monding, is 'n groot mate van soutgehalte variasie sigbaar. In die watermassas waar geen varswater invloei nie, soos die Rondevlei, bly soutvlakke meer stabiel en is minder geneig om te wissel.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/85775
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