Original Research

Water and the human culture of appropriation: the Vaal River up to 1956

Johann W.N. Tempelhoff
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 2, No 2 | a288 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v2i2.288 | © 2006 Johann W.N. Tempelhoff | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 March 2016 | Published: 11 April 2006

About the author(s)

Johann W.N. Tempelhoff, School of Basic Sciences, Vaal Triangle Campus, North-West University, South Africa

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There is discernable evidence of the human presence having historically appropriated the 1300 kilometer long Vaal River of South Africa as it extends itself from the Drakensberg Plateau into the arid Karoo region. This hard-working tributary of the Orange River, which was instrumental as a supply of water to the Witwatersrand, in the era of the region’s gold mines, has been used by humans in a variety of ways. First it was used as a route of communications, then as a borderline demarcating the territorial spaces of states and colonies. Later it was used for purposes of economic development. In the study the objective is to point towards the manner in which humans have influenced the river and its hinterland, particularly from the nineteenth century, up to the 1950s. The process of appropriation, it is argued, has had a different effect when humans laid claim to the river and its environment for social, economic and political purposes.


Vaal River; appropriation; missionary history; diamond mining; gold mining; industrial development; water pollution; hydrology; irrigation; cultural history; Orange Free State; Transvaal (Gauteng)


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Crossref Citations

1. Civil society and sanitation hydropolitics: A case study of South Africa’s Vaal River Barrage
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