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Conserving the Water Factories of the Western Cape

By Dr Ernst Barnard

The Western Cape is critical to any conservation effort in South Africa. It is not only one of the most ecologically complex and biodiverse areas in the world (due to the fact that it is home to more than 70% of one of the world’s six Floristic Kingdoms), but it is one of the primary water catchment areas for South Africa.

CapeNature, a public entity of the Western Cape Government and mandated with the conservation of biodiversity in the region, manages most of the mountain catchments and reserves that supply ecosystem services to its citizens, and the work that happens here has a direct bearing on the quality of life of millions of people in the province.

Figure 2: Where grasslands or shrublands such as fynbos are invaded by alien trees, the overall water use by the vegetation increases.
Figure 2: Where grasslands or shrublands such as fynbos are invaded by alien trees, the overall water use by the vegetation increases.

Healthy and functioning ecological infrastructure, that is, our rivers, streams, wetlands and seeps, in water catchment areas, and acting like “water-holding” and “water-producing” devices, provides clean, safe water to rivers, dams and ultimately to the end consumer. This paper demonstrates how the integrated management of three ecological processes, namely alien and invasive species, fire and freshwater, can be applied very successfully to conserve and, in many cases, restore these “water factories”.

The Western Cape holds 57% of the strategic water resources in the country, and 90% of the water catchment areas in the Western Cape are managed by CapeNature. These are typically the mountain catchments contained in a number of CapeNature nature reserves across the Western Cape, such as the Cederberg, the Boland and the Outeniqua Mountains.

Before delving into the actual management and restoration of these “water factories”, it’s important to highlight a number of threats to this important natural resource and ecological infrastructure, as well as some case studies of how CapeNature aims to protect and restore these natural water factories in the Western Cape. It goes without saying that without water, the Western Cape and its people, and indeed the whole world, would be a much poorer place. To begin, start by looking at a typical mountain catchment in the Western Cape; primarily covered in our famous fynbos which as a rule, does not really contain any trees. Normal run-off and water yield from a typical fynbos mountain catchment is maximised by the fact that a natural and healthy run-off process is maintained.

Figure 3: The current estimate is that invasive aliens cover approximately 10 million hectares in South Africa, and use approximately 3.3 billion cubic metres of water in excess of that used by native vegetation every year.
Figure 3: The current estimate is that invasive aliens cover approximately 10 million hectares in South Africa, and use approximately 3.3 billion cubic metres of water in excess of that used by native vegetation every year.

When trees are added, the situation changes quite dramatically, starting with the fact that on average, a mature tree, say a pine tree, consumes approximately 40-50 litres of water per tree per day. In 1995, Dye, Olbrich and Everson established that the greatest impact on water yield from a healthy mountain catchment area occurs when seasonally dormant vegetation, such as fynbos, is replaced by evergreen plants, such as invasive pine trees.

Thus, where grasslands or shrublands (like fynbos) are invaded by alien trees, the overall water use by the vegetation increases, leaving less water for the streams, and consequently for the end- user. Furthermore, in 1987, Van Wyk showed that infestation by invasive trees can result in a 55% reduction in streamflow (from 600 to 270 mm) in fynbos catchments, after 23 years of infestation with pines. This technically means that the water yield or run-off process has been significantly affected.

Alien and invasive species

The first ecological process in our mountain catchment areas is alien and invasive species. The current estimate is that invasive aliens cover approximately 10 million hectares in South Africa, and use approximately 3.3 billion cubic metres of water in excess of that used by native vegetation every year (that is almost 7% of the runoff of the country). These estimates indicate that the reduction in water yield is already significant and definitely large enough to warrant intervention. The logical conclusion is that these water losses will increase as alien plants invade the remaining, uninvaded areas. It is therefore in the interests of healthy catchments and the people of a region that immediate and decisive action is taken to protect the sustainability of water yield from South African catchments.

Fire

The second important ecological process in our catchments is fire. Because fynbos in the Western Cape region is a fire-driven ecosystem, fire remains a very important and necessary process. Fynbos requires fire to survive and to rejuvenate itself and without fire, fynbos dies. Therefore, any given fynbos fire is not necessarily bad news; it can be very good news. However, every year unwanted and uncontrolled veld and forest fires devastate our landscapes, affecting natural ecosystem functions, endangering life and ruining property. With the Western Cape being one of the worst affected areas in South Africa, it is necessary to pay special attention to fire management within the mountain catchments of the Western Cape.

Figure 4: With the Western Cape being one of the worst affected areas in South Africa, it is necessary to pay special attention to fire manage- ment within the mountain catchments of the Western Cape area.
Figure 4: With the Western Cape being one of the worst affected areas in South Africa, it is necessary to pay special attention to fire manage- ment within the mountain catchments of the Western Cape area.

CapeNature has been mapping fires in the fynbos for many years and over the past 14 years the region experienced 1 139 veldfires, on an estimated 1.2 million hectares of fynbos. Even though fynbos requires fire, the optimum frequency of fire needed is in intervals of approximately 10–15 years. Add to that the increased fuel load from invasive alien plants, and the result is that fires in the region are burning too hot and too frequently and are impacting on the production process of fynbos, hampering the ecology of the catchment areas for optimum water production. In an attempt to quantify ecological damage to fynbos by too-frequent fires, an ecological study was done by CapeNature’s scientists in the Boland area in 2009, following the Western Cape fires of December 2005. Using specific kinds of Protea species (re-seeders) as indicators, the aim was to establish the impact of the fire on biodiversity.

Using the established rule and threshold that 50% of the individual Protea plants in a population should have flowered at least three times before the next fire, the key finding in 2009 was that there did indeed seem to be a negative impact on biodiversity in the affected area of six-year-old veld. This was due to the fact that the Protea indicator species had insufficient time to flower and produce seeds. At least 80% of the Protea indicator species had not produced flowers at the time of the 2009 fire, which means that the plants could not form seed to produce the next generation. Some of these species need at least 12-19 years before 50% of the plants have flowered at least once.

In the big January 2013 fires (merely four years later), a large portion of the same study area was burnt, which meant that plants of the indicator species which had remained, definitely did not have enough time to flower, and that biodiversity was more than likely negatively affected. From a conservation point of view, this is extremely worrying.

Freshwater ecosystems

The third ecological process is freshwater ecosystems. Due to the semi-arid nature of the South African and Western Cape Province landscape, conservation of freshwater ecosystems has become more and more important. The Western Cape is fortunate to still have some near-pristine mountain streams and upper foothill rivers, many of them found in CapeNature Nature Reserves and mountain catchments. The wetlands found in these mountain catchments are generally also found to be in good condition.

Figure 5: Due to the semi-arid nature of the South African and Western Cape Province landscape, conservation of freshwater ecosystems has become increasingly important.
Figure 5: Due to the semi-arid nature of the South African and Western Cape Province landscape, conservation of freshwater ecosystems has become increasingly important.

However, too many of the lower lying ecosystems such as rivers and wetlands in the rural and mostly agricultural landscape have been altered to a completely degraded state, often resulting in impoverished water quantity and quality. When freshwater ecosystems reach this degraded state, they also lose their ability to act as so-called “ecosystem services”, that is to, for example, supply fresh water during dry periods or to mitigate against serious ecological damage during severe flooding events.

Looking at the state of our Western Cape freshwater ecosystems, and according to the CapeNature State of Biodiversity Report of 2012, 45% of the province’s rivers and 71% of our wetlands in the Western Cape are threatened (either Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable), compared to 51% and 65%, respectively, at the national level. Lowland river ecosystem types and floodplain wetlands are the most threatened river and wetland ecosystem types. This is particularly worrying, as they are also the least protected of the river and wetland ecosystem types.

In order to assist planning for freshwater conservation, Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas were identified, and it was established that all the indigenous fish could for example be protected if we were able to protect a mere 17% of rivers in the Western Cape.

CapeNature takes the management and restoration of our mountain catchment areas and freshwater ecosystems very seriously and the following case studies of the ways we go about it will hopefully illustrate that we aim to make a difference.

Case Study 1: Duivenhoks

Since 2009/10 the Duivenhoks (near Heidelberg) and Goukou (near Riversdal) Wetland Rehabilitation Projects in the Hessequa Municipality of the Western Cape have been rated as the best among various wetland rehabilitation projects across the country. These two wetland ecosystems, both Palmiet-dominated, peatland systems, are rehabilitated as they are considered of high value for both biodiversity and water supply to nearby towns and farms. These two systems have been impacted on mainly by ill-advised agricultural practices in the past. Many farmers have, for example, dug irrigation trenches in the wetlands or drained them for cultivation. In many cases, crops were cultivated too close to wetlands or even within their boundaries.

Image 1: The Duivenhoks Wetland Rehabilitation Project
Image 1: The Duivenhoks Wetland Rehabilitation Project

The project started in the Goukou wetland system where a gabion structure was constructed in the middle of a very sensitive and inaccessible wetland, and which has been restored to the point where it has withstood some serious flood events (500mm in two days) proving that the design and workmanship were up to task. With the completion of this structure, a new structure was started on the Duivenhoks system, too. This is a much bigger structure also made of gabions and with difficult access. Both these projects are deemed successes and the wetlands are functioning and relatively healthy again.

Case study 2: Berg River Improvement Plan

The Berg River is a vital source of water in the Western Cape, not only for farmers, but also for industrial development, human consumption and recreation. In January 2013, the Western Cape Government approved a plan to spend R16 million, over the following three years, on improving the quality of water in the Berg River. The project is a joint effort between the Western Cape Government, the Department of Water Affairs, CapeNature and the various municipalities in the area.

Image 2: Berg River Improvement Plan
Image 2: Berg River Improvement Plan

This is a multi-faceted project, which is aimed at:

  • Monitoring water quality: Water is being monitored for the presence of heavy metals, pesticides, pesticide residues, nutrients, as well as E. coli, at 20 sites identified as critical in the river and estuary areas.
  • Upgrading wastewater treatment works: Both the Franschhoek and Wemmershoek wastewater works are being upgraded, in partnership with the relevant municipalities.
  • Upgrading the informal settlements alongside the Berg River: looking at how a community can maintain a healthy state, regulate its own waste and heal its own water.
  • Introducing sustainable practices and the efficient use of water in agriculture: We are working with farmers and golf estates in the riparian zone, on the best and most efficient use of water.
  • Rehabilitation and bioremediation: CapeNature and Working for Water have undertaken alien vegetation clearing in Hermon, Drakenstein, and near Voëlvlei Dam, with corresponding planting and bioremediation in these areas.

Also, economies of water: Looking at how much water is used by the region’s economy, where and how it is used, analysing consumption in terms of economic productivity, and designing and implementing interventions to alleviate constraints. This is certainly not a short-term plan. The Berg River Improvement Plan is a joint effort from a number of different agencies who are working together towards a common goal—that the Berg River will continue to be a valuable and protected source of water into the future.

Case study 3: Job creation through conservation

Unemployment is a key issue in South Africa; and CapeNature and other conservation authorities realised that conservation provides opportunities for employment, particularly in poorer communities.

Programmes like the Expanded Public Works Programme, including Working for Water and Working for Wetlands, have provided jobs that play an important part in conserving our natural resources. The people employed in these programmes have been of enormous value in clearing alien vegetation, building firebreaks and infrastructure, as well as assisting during disaster situations, for example oil spills and floods.

Figure 8: CapeNature’s contribution to job creation
Figure 8: CapeNature’s contribution to job creation

Figure 8 depicts results obtained by CapeNature over the last few financial years including the number of jobs and full-time equivalents created.

CapeNature managed to make great strides in the past five years with the help of the Working for Water programme in terms of the management of invasive alien plants within protected areas. This is perfectly aligned with the Government’s attempt to create jobs and alleviate poverty, and has made a difference in many people’s lives.

Figure 9 illustrates how the different “Working for…” projects are deployed across the Western Cape region. The backdrop to these projects is the so-called “poverty layer” based on the Western Cape demographic statistics and, more

specifically, the unemployment per ward. With this approach, it is at least possible to make sure that some of the effort and money allocated towards job creation and poverty alleviation is spent in areas where it is most needed.

Looking at the amounts spent in the landscape, these efforts are making a significant difference in people’s lives.

Case study 4: Integrated fire management

Integrated fire management is the development and implementation of mitigation measures, standards and prescriptions based on comprehensive risk assessment, and aimed at reducing the negative impacts of veld and forest fires on social, economic and environmental assets. It is an adaptive process of continual improvement, involving record-keeping, monitoring, measurement

Figure 9: Response to Western Cape unemployment and poverty – deployment of resources
Figure 9: Response
to Western Cape unemployment and poverty – deployment of resources

and modification. Integrated fire management also implies co- operation and coordination between all role players in the fire prone environment.

Partnerships between Provincial Disaster Management Fire Brigade Services, District Municipalities, fire contractors, Volunteer Fire Services and a number of Fire Protection Agencies, create a distinct effort for cooperation, rapid response and suppression. Integrated awareness initiatives and monitoring have proven to be successful during the last fire season (2013/14) with less hectares burnt; in fact, only one tenth of the area burnt during the previous season, even though there were the same number of fires.

The Winelands District Municipality is leading the way with a joint Integrated Fire Management Plan along with CapeNature to ensure better veldfire management within the Boland Area. This is an area which has been identified as a high risk area for ecological damage due to too frequent fires.

Case study 5: The Rondegat Rehabilitation Project

The Rondegat rehabilitation project demonstrates yet another way and angle of ecological restoration of ecosystems that have been affected by alien and invasive species. A 4.5km stretch of the Rondegat river in the Cederberg Nature Reserve managed by CapeNature has been cleaned of invasive small-mouth bass in order that this part of the river can be re-colonised by indigenous fish such as rock catlets, redfin minnows and Clanwilliam yellowfish. This project is deemed a big success and the latest monitoring results by independent scientific consultants have shown a return of this part of the river to a near-pristine stage, and colonised with all three species of indigenous fish expected to come back.

A healthy ecological system is healthy and free from “distress syndrome” if it is stable and sustainable – that is, if it is active and maintains its organisation and autonomy over time and is resilient to stress.

These case studies confirm CapeNature and the Western Cape Government’s dedication to the integrated management and restoration, where required, of the province’s mountain catchments and other ecological infrastructure in order that the people of the Western Cape can benefit from:
• more, cleaner and safer water to the end user,

• improved and sustainable farming practices,

• reduced erosion of ecosystems and reduced risk of disasters,

• better adaptation to climate change, and • the conservation and sustainability of the biodiversity of the region.

Source: The Sustainable Water Resource Handbook Volume 5


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South Africa’s great thirst has begun

Eskom’s electricity woes have hastened the failure of water infrastructure around the country.

For many South Africans, the water crisis is already here. For others, research and projections show, it is only a matter of time – and perhaps not a great deal of time.

Thanks to load-shedding, and a shortage of water when electricity is restricted, the thirsty future could arrive in major urban centres as soon as this summer.

Early last year, four people died in violent protests over a lack of water in the Mothotlung township outside Brits in North West. In the glare of national publicity, water was quickly restored.

But on Monday, almost exactly a year later, taps in the township again ran dry. When the water flowed again on Tuesday, it was brown.

“I am scared to drink water from the tap. I only use it for bathing and washing clothes. I do buy water from the tuck shop when I have money,” said 72-year-old widow Johana Ngwato.

“My daughter is six years old and, whenever she takes the water, she experiences diarrhoea,” said Ngwato’s niece, Baile Masango.

Grahamstown march

In 2013, a two-week water outage in Grahamstown saw academics, in their formal caps and gowns, march in lockstep on the city council offices, with township residents following, brandishing placards.

Rhodes University, the lifeblood of the town, issued a stark warning that garnered national attention: without water it would have to close its doors.

On Monday night, the water supply went off again without warning in a section of the township overlooking Grahamstown, leaving Tembinkosi Mhlakaza to wonder at what point he should go to fetch water for his grandmother, and how far he would have to go to get it.

“She’s nearly 80,” Mhlakaza said. “Our water went out last night, and it may come on this afternoon. But if it doesn’t, I have to make a plan for her.”

Supply failures

In 2014, the residents of Thlolong outside Kestell in the Free State were promised that a new dam would solve their water woes. On Wednesday, a resident, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisal, said neither the dam nor emergency water supplies were anywhere to be seen.

“We are thirsty. It has been eight years now that we live like this. The tankers that the municipality use to bring us water are not here this week; we didn’t see them last week. We don’t know what we must do now.”

In Johannesburg, some suburbs were warned this week to expect weekend water outages because of scheduled maintenance at a pumping station – the same station that left some of the same suburbs, and some hospitals, without water for days last year. The maintenance plan was later postponed.

These are no longer isolated cases. According to government officials, about a third of all towns are in some form of serious water distress. The department of water considers one in 10 municipal water systems to be totally dysfunctional, and, of those that are working, a quarter experiences regular service disruptions of more than two days at a time.

In provinces such as Mpumalanga, there are more households that have regular water interruptions than those with a steady supply.

Municipal incompetence

In Mothotlung and Grahamstown, the water supply issues can be linked directly to municipal incompetence, a lack of engineering skills and the failure of management. Neither area has a shortage of untreated water, but they are going thirsty because of a lack of maintenance and proper financial administration and planning.

These problems show no signs of abating, as bitter experience shows.

“If you give me the money and people, I can fix it up for good,” said a Grahamstown city engineer, who is not authorised to speak to the media. “Without money and people, I’ll keep it running as long as I can. Just don’t ask me to fix it quickly when it really all breaks down; then you can keep your money.”

In Johannesburg, water shortages in 2014 were caused by electricity failure to a key pumping station, which in turn was linked to cable theft.

With Eskom warning that there will be regular load-shedding for the rest of the summer, and unable to deliver consistent power for several more years, water engineers are trying to work out how to manage shortages.

Meagre reserve margins

In many areas, water systems have either little or very meagre reserve margins. Electricity outages at pumps that move raw water could leave treatment stations without water. And, without treated water to move, pumps responsible for distribution would be idle when they do get electricity.

These two factors – local incompetence and a national electricity shortage – will have the biggest impact on what, if anything, comes out of the taps for the next several years.

But, within the next decade, two other fundamental issues are likely to make themselves felt – problems that no amount of local governing excellence or electricity will solve.

For one, there is simply not enough water left to go around.

“The situation currently in South Africa is that we have 98% of the water in the country being considered fully allocated. This means that my child and your child that is being born tomorrow has 2% of water for use going into the future,” then water minister Edna Molewa said of water usage rights in 2013.

Eskom first

Eskom has a 99.5% assurance of receiving water, meaning the power utility gets water before any other sector of the economy.

The 2030 Water Resources Group, of which the department is a member, has calculated that, by 2030, the demand for water will exceed supply by 17%. In most of South Africa’s catchments, demand is already outstripping supply, and it is only by piping water from places such as Lesotho that there is enough for now.

Climate change projections are that, by mid-century, reduced rainfall could lower the amount of available water by 10%. Rainfall is expected to come in shorter, but more violent, spells. The projections say this will make collection in dams and underground difficult.

Exactly how much water is available is a complex calculation, with many variables and estimates to consider, and it is seasonal, to boot.

In lay terms, the easy water is already being harvested. Major South African rivers have been dammed to maximum capacity – there are nearly 4400 registered dams – and some would argue beyond their capacity; river systems require what is sometimes referred to as an “ecological reserve”, a minimum amount of water to continue functioning and be useful.

Barriers to supply

Water systems that could handle new dams are both far from population centres and limited in their ability to supply water.

“Many parts of the country have either reached or are fast approaching the point at which all of the financially viable freshwater resources are fully utilised and where building new dams will not address the challenges,” the department of water affairs said in its 2013 strategy report.

That leaves South Africa more dependent than ever on water pumped from Lesotho, where a new phase of the Highlands water scheme will come on line in 2020.

But all the run-off from Lesotho must inevitably flow through South Africa to the ocean, making even that water-rich country a finite resource for South Africans.

An increase in global temperatures is expected to increase evaporation from dams, which potentially makes building more an exercise in running on the spot rather than getting ahead.

More groundwater can be exploited, but only by so much. Desalination is possible, but it requires large amounts of electricity and is very expensive.

Little to go around

That all leaves little untreated water to go around, even without the expected increases in municipal use, because of a growing population, agricultural use, which is increasing the amount of land under irrigation and is a mainstay of plans to improve both employment and food security, and industrial use.

“Increases in water supply cannot match the expected increase in demand without additional and far-reaching interventions,” Steve Hedden and Jakkie Cilliers, of the Institute for Security Studies, wrote in a September 2014 paper. “The water crisis cannot be solved through engineering alone.”

The second structural problem is an unfolding ecological ­disaster, which is making available water more difficult to treat and, eventually and without intervention, will make direct use of untreated water impossible.

“Water ecosystems are not in a healthy state,” according to the department of water affairs’ National Water Resource Strategy 2013. “Of the 233 river ecosystem types, 60% are threatened, with 25% of these critically endangered … Of 792 wetland ecosystems, 65% have been identified as threatened, and 48% as critically endangered.”

Human waste

The sources of pollution in fresh water include industrial run-off and acid mine drainage, but human waste is a larger and more immediately dangerous component, ironically because of the large amount of water South Africans use.

“Most waste water treatment facilities are under stress because so much more waste water needs to be treated,” said Gunnar Sigge, head of Stellenbosch University’s department of food science and one of those involved in a seminal – and alarming – 2012 study for the Water Research Commission.

“Some of the biggest problems [in the water system] are caused by treatment works that aren’t functioning.”

Jo Barnes, a specialist in community health risks at Stellenbosch, said a chronic lack of investment in treatment plants meant conditions that should not exist, such as diarrhoea, were killing people.

“The whole environment where people live is contaminated. This is a massive, massive problem, but one that people will not talk about. There are just a few angry people trying to raise awareness.”

The 2012 study, carried out in all the provinces and over a three-to-four year period, found that the amount of faecal matter in many water systems made it unsafe for irrigation, because eating raw produce watered with it could cause illness.

Informal settlements

Informal settlements both contribute to the pollution and are affected by it, and some draw directly on groundwater. According to the department of human settlements, the number of informal settlements rose from 300 in 1994 to about 2 700 today, housing 1.3-million families.

In Mothotlung, Serube Lukhelo is afraid to give her one-year-old baby water that could cause diarrhoea, so she spends what money she has on bottled water.

In Grahamstown’s Joza location, Nomfundo Bentele is considering putting up a sign at her hair salon to let customers know whether she has water or not.

In Johannesburg residents and hospitals wait to hear when water from their taps will stop running.

Everywhere else the clock is ticking.

 

Source: Mail & Guardian


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South Africans urged to use water sparingly, legally

South Africa’s water authorities have urged the population to respect the laws regulating water and use water sparingly, even during this festive holiday season, APA learns here Friday.

Last month the ministry of water embarked on raids in certain areas of the country to compel entities across all sectors that are abstracting water illegally from the rivers and other water resources to stop their activities or face the might of the law.

In terms of the National Water Act of 1998, all water users in South Africa, whether for commercial or domestic use must be registered through their municipalities and industries and must be issued with water use licences.

The National Water Act forms part of the pillars of South Africa’s laws as it seeks to enforce good management of water and its conservation.

South Africa is among the 30 driest countries in the world and the country also runs the risk of becoming a desert in 20 years if water is not managed and used sparingly, the water authorities said.

“It is unacceptable that some individuals and industries use the country’s scarce resource for personal benefit without applying for water use licenses.”

“An increase in unlawful water use activities, with a negative impact on the environment as well as socio-economic factors, called for a need to bring about public awareness regarding compliance” the ministry said.

Source: Star Africa

National Water Resource Strategy 2

The National Water Resource Strategy 2 builds on the first National Water Resource Strategy published in 2004. The purpose of the NWRS2 is to ensure that national water resources are protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in an efficient and sustainable manner towards achieving South Africa’s development priorities in an equitable manner over the next five to 10 years. This Strategy responds to priorities set by Government within the National Development Plan (NDP) and National Water Act imperatives that support sustainable development. The National Water Resource Strategy 2 acknowledges that South Africa is a water-stressed country and is facing a number of water challenges and concerns, which include security of supply, environmental degradation and resource pollution, and the inefficient use of water.

In the context of the need for growth, equity and protection of water resources, this Strategy identifies three broad objectives: water supports development and the elimination of poverty and inequality; water contributes to the economy and job creation; and water is protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in an equitable and sustainable manner. The response to the strategic context and the imperatives set out above is delivered through strategic themes, which discuss in detail the context and challenges, key principles to be sustained, objectives of that particular theme and then proposes strategic actions to achieve the stated objectives.

The Strategy recognises that the manner in which water was allocated in the past was unequal and favoured only the white section of the population in South Africa. The National Development Plan (NDP) and National Water Act (NWA) collectively inform the intended means to redress past imbalances in the manner in which water was allocated. The perspective of equity in the Strategy is three dimensional and includes equity in access to water services, equity in access to water resources and equity in access to the benefits from water resource use through economic, social and environmental development and management. The Strategy intends to achieve these objectives through the use of the Water Allocation Reform programme and mechanisms proposed, which include water set aside specifically for redress, compulsory licensing, general authorisations, development support and partnerships to ensure that water is made available to previously disadvantaged groups.

The water resource protection theme emphasises the need to protect our fresh water ecosystems, which are under threat because of pollution from many sources. The need for determination and preservation of the ecological Reserve and the classification of our river fresh water systems will be a priority. This will assist to determine the nature and the extent of pollution in order to provide appropriate rehabilitation solutions. The Strategy stresses the need for the value of water to be appreciated and for the attitudes and habits of all citizens to change towards water and to work towards its protection. It is reported that climate change will progressively alter the environment in future and present new challenges. The effects of climate change include higher temperatures, altered rainfall patterns and increased occurrence of drought and floods.

The Strategy proposes the development of adequate capacity within the sector and the country for monitoring and effective detection and adaptation to protect water and to ensure sustainable water supplies into the future. Reconciliation Strategies project depletion in the water supplies for some water supply systems in the country. In light of the urgency to protect our water resources and the adverse effects of climate change, the National Water Resource Strategy 2 submits that water conservation and water demand management should be one of the top priorities, and measures to reconcile demand and supply in order provide for all our goals of a better life for all through job creation and economic growth.
Research published by the Water Research Commission (WRC) in 2013 indicates that Non-Revenue Water (NRW) for urban supply systems over the past six years was at an average of 36.8%, which is equal to 1 580 million m3/a from a total urban consumption of approximately 4 300 million m3/a. This research also indicates that in many municipal water supply schemes, the figures are even worse, with NRW in some cases up to 90%. The irrigation sector, which uses up to 60% of the country’s water resources, accounts for losses of between 35% and 45%.

While some municipalities and other institutions have begun to address the challenge of water loss, the National Water Resource Strategy 2 emphasises that effort must be intensified with specific targets set to reduce water loss. Water conservation and water demand management measures will have multiple benefits in terms of the postponement of infrastructure augmentation, mitigation against climate change, support to economic growth and ensuring that adequate water is available for equitable allocation. This requires appropriate institutional arrangements and effective governance.

The management and implementation of water strategies requires competent and accountable management. The Strategy outlines the institutional arrangements that will be established or strengthened to co-ordinate activities related to efficient water resource management within a defined geographical area or catchment boundary. The institutions will be required to perform their duties within a developmental management approach that values the involvement of all stakeholders in defining strategies and plans for management within their defined areas. Smart business approaches will be promoted within the total water value chain management and water footprint.

The National Water Resource Strategy 2 is developed within a changing environment and acknowledges that monitoring and collecting relevant data will not only affect the accurate assessments of the status of water resources and the magnitude of water problems, but will vastly improve planning and policy formulation processes. National water legislation (Section 68 of Water Services Act) requires the Minister to maintain a national information system to record and provide data on the development, implementation and monitoring of national policy.

The monitoring should not be done only for the sake of our national concerns, but also in response to our obligation within international river basins. Approximately 60% of the streamflow in rivers is shared through trans-boundary water systems. South Africa should ensure that Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is implemented in a manner that conforms to international water protocols and treaties, while being compliant with the legislation governing water resource management in South Africa.

A repository of water resource intelligence will facilitate better interpretation and response to the challenges associated with changing hydrological patterns, climate change, groundwater reserves and innovative responses for reference to the country and neighbouring states with whom we share river basins.

The National Water Resource Strategy 2 also strongly promotes technology and innovation to contribute to effective and efficient water management solutions that respond to the needs for water security and sustainability for individuals, communities, productive and strategic water use as well as ecosystem services. The research and innovation conducted by the WRC and other research bodies in areas such as wastewater treatment, water quality and water ecosystems, skills and capacity within the sector, climate change and water conservation and water demand management approaches have influenced the themes and interventions contained in this Strategy.

The Strategy promotes the development of a clear regulatory framework for water resources and coordinating regulatory standards and processes with other government departments and regulatory institutions. Compliance monitoring and enforcement is one of the priorities identified by the Strategy and legal, financial and forensic capacity will be developed to ensure effective prosecution for the ultimate protection of South African water resources against any illegal action by institutions or persons in contravention of the required quality and quantity standards.

The National Water Resource Strategy 2 emphasises that the achievement of the vision and objective will require support by strong institutions, competent and capacitated personnel with the requisite financial resources to implement interventions.

An investment framework for the Strategy, contained with the financial chapter, outlines the financial capital required to effectively implement all key programmes. This is done within the context that government, development institutions, the private sector and other funders will join hands to provide the necessary funding to support water resource management in the country.

The Strategy also defines the skills required to support effective implementation and outlines the Strategy that will
be adopted to raise skill levels through collaboration and partnership with various training and skills development institutions, including universities, Further Education & Training (FET) colleges and universities of technology. A collective approach will be sustained within the Water Sector Skills Task Team, which operates under the auspicious of the Water Sector Leadership Group, to identify the skills gap, and to develop relevant educational and training material and competencies at different levels.

The National Planning Commission’s Vision 2030 and alignment with National Water Resource Strategy 2.

The National Planning Commission has paid particular attention to water issues and how they impact on and influence our development pathways and opportunities. Table 1 illustrates some areas where strong alignment with the Vision 2030 targets and actions need to be made. Detailed plans and actions will be explored in the relevant sections of this document.

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Green Capital: The City of Tshwane’s Green Economy Strategic Framework

GBJ 10 (2014)

By Alistair Schorn

As South Africa’s capital city, the City of Tshwane has recognised and embraced its responsibility to play a leading role in the transition of the county’s major cities and metropolitan areas to low-carbon, climate- resilient and resource-efficient models of development. This is clearly demonstrated in the development of the City’s Green Economy Strategic Framework, and its alignment with the City of Tshwane Vision 2055.

As with any initiative at the level of local government this framework was developed in alignment with the national economic development context. In this regard, the South African government has for a number of years recognised the green economy as a significant catalyst for employment creation, and socially equitable and environmentally responsible economic development. More specifically, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs states that the green economy refers in particular to two interlinked developmental outcomes for the South African economy, namely:

  • Growth in economic activity (leading investment, employment and competitiveness) in identified green industry sectors;
  • An overall shift in economic activity towards cleaner industries and sectors that have a low environmental impact compared to their socio-economic impact.

In line with these imperatives, the government has implemented a number of policy measures which aim to promote a transition to a green economy. These include the National Strategy for Sustainable Development, the Industrial Policy Action Plan, the New Growth Path, the Green Economy Accord and most recently, the National Development Plan that was released in 2012.

In the context of these national policy measures, strategies and plans, the implementation of South Africa’s green economy transition has been to the level of a significant degree decentralised to provincial and local government level. As a result, the City of Tshwane has identified a requirement to develop a city-specific Green Economy Strategic Framework, which reinforces national policy and provincial policy in this area.

What is a green economy and how can we get there?

In developing the Green Economy Strategic Framework for Tshwane, the City’s government has adopted the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) definition of a green economy, namely “one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities”

From the City’s perspective, therefore, the essence of a green economy lies in the following:

  • Improved human well-being;
  • Improved social equity;
  • Reduced environmental risks and ecological scarcities.

It is therefore imperative that a green economy transition can de-couple economic development from resource consumption and environmental impacts, and enable inclusive growth through a more equal distribution of wealth and access to ecological goods and services such as clean air and water.

It should also enable improved human health and well-being, through enhancing the quality and quantity of these goods and services, as well as the quantity and quality of public infrastructure and services such as transportation, education and civil services.

If implemented effectively, a green economy can offer a new economic path to sustainable development, in which the spheres of technology, economy, society and ecology are embedded in each other and are underpinned by systems of good governance.

Sustainable development and the green economy (adapted from the National Strategy for Sustainable Development).

This understanding of a green economy provides the broader context for the development of the City of Tshwane’s Strategic Framework.

The successful implementation of this Framework, and the resulting transition to a green economy, will require that the City makes best use of its inherent competitive advantages, to develop a highly appropriate, resource-efficient, low-carbon and inclusive programme.

The City of Tshwane

Tshwane is of course located in the north of Gauteng, and comprises over one-third of the province’s area. It has a population of 2, 92 million and a population density of 4 634 people per km2.

Tshwane exhibits a diversity of land uses, including residential (rural and urban), agricultural, natural open, industrial and commercial. Much of Tshwane is currently urbanised, although significant potential exists for agricultural production in less urbanised regions. Over the past several decades, Tshwane has experienced rapid economic growth and development, resulting in significant urban sprawl, which presents a growing challenge in terms of basic services, infrastructure and housing.

One of the objectives of the Strategic Framework is of new and existing projects and programmes to be included in the City of Tshwane’s Integrated Development Plan (IDP) in the next planning cycle. The IDP for 2011–2016 has made significant improvements in livelihoods by addressing service backlogs and poverty through improving the availability and universal accessibility of essential public services (such as housing, water, sanitation, education and health care). The next IDP will therefore need to continue with service delivery roll-out, while at the same time focusing on the development of integrated solutions that reduce resource consumption and the generation of pollution and waste, while opening up new opportunities for green jobs and green economic growth.

The Strategic Framework will help to inform the City of Tshwane’s medium to long-term green economy objectives. It also forms part of the Tshwane 2055 initiative, which is a long-term strategy for improving the quality of living across the metropolitan area, revitalising the city, boosting economic development and attracting investment. It aims to articulate the City of Tshwane’s vision, game-changing interventions, indicators and outcomes.

In this regard, Tshwane 2055 has the following six identified outcomes:

  • A resilient and resource-efficient city;
  • A growing economy that is inclusive, diversified and competitive;
  • Quality infrastructure development that supports liveable communities;
  • An equitable city that supports happiness, social cohesion, safety and healthy citizens;
  • An African capital city that promotes excellence and innovative governance solutions;
  • An activist citizenry that is engaging, aware of their rights and present themselves as partners in tackling societal challenges.

The Tshwane Green Economy Strategic Framework is aimed at addressing primarily the first of these objectives, namely the development of a resilient and resource-efficient city. It will also contribute to achievement of the second objective, particularly in the area of economic inclusivity.

The Tshwane Green Economy Strategic Framework

The development process for the Framework included extensive internal consultation with relevant City officials, and significant support and participation were received from local UNEP representatives. Based upon this process, the principal drivers of the green economy were identified as a response to the growing economic and environmental crises that demand a new green economic model for the following:

  • Resource efficiency: the efficient use of natural resources to reduce the generation of waste and pollutants;
  • Low-carbon development: the use of innovation and increased investment in low-carbon technologies and solutions; and
  • Inclusive growth: the creation of green jobs and the greening of service delivery to ensure more equitable and inclusive growth with a focus on the poor.

It was decided that the focus areas or themes of the Strategic Framework should be action-based and aligned with existing green economy initiatives and strategies. These themes were accordingly finalised in March 2013, and were divided into two principal categories or clusters, namely mitigation and adaptation.Within each of these themes, the status quo and challenges were described to give context and perspective. Known challenges and barriers to developing the City’s green economy were used to formulate aspirations, objectives and appropriate actions for each theme.

These were incorporated into an initial draft of the Strategic Framework that was reviewed and finalised by the City of Tshwane’s Sustainability Office.

Thematic action areas

Under each of the mitigation and adaptation clusters, the Framework identifies the following specific thematic action areas, as follows:

1. Transitioning to a low-carbon city (mitigation)

  • Pollution and waste management – reduction and effective management of waste streams, including solid waste, wastewater and air pollution;
  • Integrated water resource management – coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources;
  • Green buildings and built environment – the development of a green built environment in the City, including spatial planning and public service infrastructure, with due consideration of national initiatives in this area;
  • Sustainable transport and improved mobility – improved efficiency and sustainability in transport systems and infrastructure, and the creation of an enabling environment for green transport initiatives;
  • Sustainable energy – including initiatives, in line with various national policies and programmes in the field.

2. Building a resilient and resource-efficient city (adaptation)

  • Maintenance and provision of ecosystem goods and services – protection and enhancement of ecosystem goods and services, with due consideration of ecological limits and rates of replenishment;
  • Sustainable agriculture and food security – creation of sustainable food supply systems which maintain and enhance the ecological integrity of land and other natural resources;
  • Sustainable communities (health and social development) – promotion of a vibrant citizenry and a healthy, skilled workforce that contributes to improved wellbeing and social cohesion.

For each of these themes, a set of overall aspirations, strategic objectives and appropriate actions were developed for the Framework.

Specific mitigation actions include the following: reducing emissions from buildings; improving mobility and providing low-carbon mass transport options; reducing the generation of waste and encouraging product re-use, recycling and material recovery; promoting integrated planning and land use; improving energy efficiency and developing renewable energy supply options; and encouraging the efficient use and management of water and other natural resources.

The adaptation actions include: main- streaming environmental priorities and carrying out biodiversity assessments to inform development plans; supporting and expanding government public works programmes to incorporate payment for an ecosystem services approach, enhancing the skills and knowledge in agro-ecology, enhancing local urban and peri-urban food production for increased food security; and providing services and facilities that enable a safe and healthy environment while enhancing opportunities for improved connectivity and social cohesion and human wellbeing.

A number of specific methods of implementation were identified to promote the establishment of a green economy in the City, including the following:

  • Investing strategically in green innovation and technology;
  • Defining a new economic base for a green economy; and
  • Developing partnerships between government, business, labour and civil society.

In terms of these implementation methods, the Framework identifies the financial constraints under which the City (and in fact all municipalities) operate, as a potential inhibitor of transition to a green economy, and it acknowledges the necessity for effective public-private partnerships to overcome this obstacle.

Furthermore, the Framework refers to the possible use of municipal fiscal policy, in the form of both incentives and disincentives, as an effective method of catalysing the growth of a green economy in the city.

A final element of the Framework, included as an Appendix, outlines the City’s targets for various measures and initiatives for a green economy as derived from national and provincial targets in these areas.

These include areas such as the installation of solar water heaters, the creation of green jobs, public sector investment in green economy sectors such as renewable energy and sustainable transportation, energy efficiency targets, waste reduction targets and the implementation of appropriate sustainability standards such as those for green buildings.

The City of Tshwane’s transition to a green economy will require a fundamental change in the established economic system, from one based on increasing exploitation of natural resources to fulfil the growing demands for material consumption, to one that can ensure sustainable and equitable growth within the ecological limits of Tshwane and the region.

Achieving this shift will require effective integrated planning, robust policy signals, good governance and high levels of accountability on the part of the City’s management. It will also require investment in new skills, research in innovation and green technologies, and a new mindset for doing business.

The Green Economy Strategic Framework provides a means to achieve these objectives, by outlining the suite of strategies and actions that are required to facilitate the City’s transition to a green economy and a sustainable development path.