Coca-Cola’s investment in the Greater Cape Town Water Fund is recharging Cape Town’s largest aquifer by empowering women to clear water-intensive alien plants.
The Coca-Cola Foundation (TCCF), Coca-Cola Peninsula Beverages (PenBev), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), along with other partners, today celebrate the completion of a successful pilot project for The Greater Cape Town Water Fund. As a founding investor in the Water Fund, TCCF’s investment of US$150,000 has helped to clear 64 hectares of invasive plants in the Atlantis area of the Western Cape, and empowered 12 females through skills transfer and employment.
The Greater Cape Town Water Fund is working with authorities, the private sector, NGOs and communities to restore the Atlantis aquifer, Cape Town’s largest. By December 2019, the Water Fund will have replenished at least 10,000,000 litres of water to the Atlantis aquifer by clearing 64 hectares of invasive plants in the aquifer’s primary recharge zone. Invasive plants, such as Australian Acacias, consume more water than the native Fynbos vegetation, limiting rainwater recharge to the aquifer. The Fund employs local female job seekers to clear these invasive plants.
“Water Funds are unique financing vehicles that invest in innovative and pioneering initiatives to manage water supplies. We are very excited about our investment in this Water Fund in particular as it will have a positive impact on more than 70,000 people in Witzands and Silverstroom as well as alleviate pressure and increase water security across Cape Town’s water supply system, which serves 4 million people,” explains Dorcas Onyango, Head of Sustainability for Coca-Cola Southern & East Africa.
Over time, the Atlantis aquifer pilot project will be scaled up to priority catchments in the Western Cape Water Supply System to secure water supply. By restoring natural vegetation cover at a large scale, the Water Fund will help catalyze a significant increase in aquifer recharge and help boost water availability.
“Alien plant invasions in the Greater Cape Town region’s catchments are responsible for the loss of 38 million liters of water each year, equivalent to meeting the water requirements of Cape Town for two months. The Greater Cape Town Water Fund works with partners to control thirsty invader plants, restore strategic wetlands and riverine areas, and thereby address these water losses,” said Louise Stafford, The Nature Conservancy’s Water Fund Project Director for South Africa. With a continous need to remove alien plant species, a sustainable business opportunity has been developed for local female entrepreneurs, supported through The Water Fund.
The Nature Conservancy has 29 Water Funds in operation and 30 more in development — all of which are designed to protect the upstream and aquifer water source regions that provide water to large urban centres.
Coca-Cola’s response to the crisis in Cape Town, in addition to investment in the Greater Cape Town Water Fund, includes finding alternatives to municipal water for its beverage production, as well as the provisioning of emergency bottled water supplies. “Over the past 11 years, Coca-Cola Peninsula Beverages has reduced the use of water dramatically in the manufacturing process and has one of the best water usage ratios across the Coca-Cola system. Our promise of caring for the communities we service as well as the environment remains of paramount importance to us as a business. We are very proud to be part of the Cape Town Water Fund which has made great progress in such a short space of time,” explains Priscilla Urquhart, Public Affairs and Communications Manager for Coca-Cola Peninsula Beverages.
With water stress and scarcity being the new normal for many regions across South Africa, The Nature Conservancy calls on all partners and other investors like The Coca-Cola Company, to invest in these strategic investment models to manage water resources and optimize water supply.
An agency monitoring drought has warned of a worsening food crisis in the country should the dry spell being experienced persists.
“If the (short) rains are below average, as currently forecast, or the onset of the season is late, then the situation will become significantly worse, with impacts on health and nutrition, household purchasing power and security,” the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) says in its latest bulletin.
The document further says: “The implications of a poor season are particularly worrying for marginal agricultural counties, which are short rains-dependent.”
The authority issued drought alerts for 10 counties and an alarm for one.
The authority said Narok, Kajiado, Taita-Taveta, Kilifi, Kwale, Tana River, Kitui, Makueni, Marsabit and Garissa counties were experiencing a decline in food and livestock production as well as water supply. The drought status of Lamu was moved up from alert to alarm.
In its October bulletin, the authority says only one county — Kilifi — was in the alarm drought phase, with the rest in the alert phase.
The authority’s chairperson, Ms Agnes Ndetei, said in parts of Kilifi, Garissa, Lamu, Kwale, Taita-Taveta, Tana River, Makueni, Kajiado, Narok and Marsabit, there are now significant shortages of pasture and water.
“Areas in the south-east and the Coast are the most affected since they received below-average rainfall during the long rains season,” said Ms Ndetei.
According to the agency, the food shortage has been aggravated by conflict in some counties, the most serious case in the previous month being along the border of Isiolo and Garissa, where pastoralists’ convergence is common.
DROUGHT CONTINGENCY PLANS
“NDMA, in collaboration with county governments and other stakeholders, has activated drought contingency plans in seven counties and is supporting all devolved units to coordinate their response and plan for a possible La Niña event,” says the bulletin.
The authority says it has disbursed Sh53 million of drought contingency finance provided by the European Union in seven counties since the beginning of July.
The onset of the dry spell in the North Rift has sparked fears of conflicts in the scramble for scarce resources among pastoralists in the region.
A spot check by the Nation revealed that many water sources in the area had dried up and pastures depleted, prompting pastoralists to move with their livestock to neighbouring areas.
This has been witnessed in Mochongoi Forest, Baringo; and Laikipia Nature Conservancy, where Pokot herders have moved with hundreds of their livestock.
Baringo county commissioner Peter Okwanyo said they were in talks with elders in the region for pasture committees to be constituted to avoid conflicts.
A report released by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group and Early Warning Systems Network in January indicates that families in Samburu, Marsabit, Isiolo, Garissa, Mandera and Wajir faced food shortages and inadequate pasture and water for their animals due to the dry spell.
Thousands of families in parts of Baringo, West Pokot and Turkana counties in the North Rift region are also experiencing food shortages that are likely to be complicated by the drought.
While Gauteng has briefly enjoyed some much needed rainfall (and hail), the water crisis in the country is expected to continue into 2016.
South Africa has experienced little to no rainfall since the beginning of the year, and as a result, drought conditions are being experienced across the country.
To date, five provinces are severely affected by the drought and have been declared disaster areas, with KwaZulu Natal the worst affected. Other provinces include Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West.
According to the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWA), South Africa experienced its worst drought in 1983 with the national average dam level at 34.0%.
“Currently our national average dam level is sitting at 63.3%. This means that our regional water supply dams and schemes remain water secure sitting with positive water balance,” it said.
South Africa receives an annual rainfall of 492 millimetres, close to half of the global average of 985 millimetres. It is therefore classified as a water-stressed nation.
To compound matters, the country’s water distribution is split between east and west – 43% of South Africa’s total rainfall occurs on only 13% of the land according to the DWA.
The DWA forecast in the mid-2000s that water demand would outstrip supply in Gauteng by 2013 – and the rest of the country by 2025 – but little has been done by industry and individuals to curb water wastage.
Water levels in South Africa 2015
Who’s using all the water
There are six major water use sectors, namely, irrigation, urban use, rural use, mining and bulk industrial, power generation, and afforestation.
Studies done by the department show that the vast majority of water in South Africa is used in agriculture, with over 60% of all available water going into the sector for irrigation.
As much as 30% of water in SA is for urban and rural use (including domestic use), while the rest is split among industrial, power generation and afforestation uses.
|Mining and Bulk Industrial use||5.7%|
About 12% of all water is used for domestic (home) use, in the country.
Urbanisation is a major problem – putting pressure on water systems, while growing cities leads to deforestation and an increase of pollution, which ruins water quality, too.
While the profiles for rural and urban home use of water are very different, flushing toilets is the biggest water user in both areas.
|Bath and Shower||19%||32%|
|Other (Cooking, Cleaning, Washing Dishes, Drinking, etc)||8%||14%|
Looking at homes with gardens, up to 46% of all water is used up taking care of it.
|Homes with Gardens||%|
|Other (See above)||54%|
Technicians from the Department of Water and Sanitation have repaired leaking pipes and malfunctioning boreholes with the aim of restoring full water supply in Majakaneng, North West.
The intervention is part of an agreement between the department and North West MEC for Local Government and Human Settlements, Colleen Maine, to take over the running of water and sanitation issues from Madibeng District Municipality.
MEC Maine announced the takeover during a recent public meeting, where Letlhabile residents expressed dissatisfaction with the municipality’s service delivery performance on water.
The residents complained about receiving water intermittently and high water bills even though most of them do not have water metres in their yards.
They also complained about exorbitant electricity bills by the municipality even though most of the time they went for days without lights.
The department reported on Tuesday that technicians have also fixed a leaking water reservoir which is now pumping water to full capacity.
“At least 1 570 leaks were identified in the area and 1 061 of these are in the process of being fixed. The department is targeting to repair 15 leaks a day per team.
“Also, 10 boreholes have been drilled and four of these will be developed into production boreholes,” said department spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau.
In addition, Ratau said, the department has started supplying jojo tanks with the targeting of installing 31 such tanks before the end of this week.
Similar work will be done in Madidi and Jericho villages as soon as the technicians have completed work in Majakaneng.
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The Mpumalanga water programme has provided water to a total of 24 villages in Bushbuckridge, benefiting 15 000 households in the municipality.
R298 million was spent on the programme, which was implemented in partnership with the Department of Water and Sanitation and Rand Water to provide water to rural communities with water shortages.
“A further R601 million is already being implemented as part of Phase 2 of the support to the municipality to benefit an additional 69 villages,” Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza said on Friday.
Speaking at the opening of the Mpumalanga House of Traditional Leaders, he said the provision of basic services such as water, sanitation, electricity and proper human settlements was key to improving the quality of lives in the country.
Premier Mabuza said municipalities have been tasked with ensuring that water supply is supplemented with boreholes within the next three to four months.
“Where boreholes exist but are non-functional, such boreholes shall be refurbished within the next three to four months in order to ensure that our people have access to water,” Premier Mabuza said.
The province has set aside R186.2 million to address backlogs for the electrification of households in the province for the 2015/16 financial year as part of the Integrated National Electrification Programme.
He said government was implementing the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme to create job opportunities for communities in rural and tribal areas while simultaneously providing food security.
Government had come up with the War on Leaks Programme, which is aimed at improving the sustainability of water supply.
“Youth development, through this programme, shall be key as those with minimum qualifications would not only enjoy access to job opportunities but would also benefit in our long-term skills development and refinement of technical expertise,” Premier Mabuza said.
He said the provincial government would continue to support, strengthen and capacitate all institutions of traditional leadership in the province to accelerate rural development, nation building and social cohesion within traditional communities.
“We will continue to provide capacity and equipping all our traditional leaders with the necessary skills to enable them to better manage, control and lead their councils with professionalism.
“Government will continue to support the capacity building programme for traditional leaders to empower them with the requisite skills and competencies to contribute to economic growth and community development programmes in our tribal communities,” Premier Mabuza said.
Source: All Africa
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Water is the life-blood of every nation. When the New York City fore-fathers established the city they ensured, early on in the planning process, that the Catskills Mountain range, New York’s very own water factory, was secured. This means that today New York probably has the cleanest water supply of any large city in the world! Not only is the water supply sufficient in quantity but the quality of the water means that little money is spent on cleaning the water for human use.
South Africa’s largest water factory is the uKhahlamba (Drakensberg) Mountain Range which provides an ideal backbone, or watershed, for Lesotho, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. Seventy per cent of all South Africans get their water from the Orange-Senqu river basin which has its headwaters in this remarkably productive watershed. Inter-basin transfers, such as the Tugela-Vaal and the Orange-Senqu/ Johannesburg transfer scheme all rely on the clean water that is ‘manufactured’ in the Drakensberg and Maluti mountain range on the border between Lesotho and South Africa.
Water governance in South Africa
South Africa is a water-stressed country, and such is the magnitude of water risks that the government has appointed a dedicated Ministry and Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) to address water and sanitation issues. It is also apparent that government cannot manage water quality and quantity issues alone. Partnerships with civil society organisations, therefore, form a key part of South Africa’s water management strategy.
Massive water awareness campaigns such as 20/20 vision and Baswa le Meetse have also been conducted to create much needed understanding of how scarce and vulnerable our water supply really is. These campaigns include massive street processions where cities like Boksburg close the streets so that thousands of people can demonstrate their commitment to a cleaner, water-wise future. Such campaigns have done a great deal to raise awareness, but on their own cannot enable the much needed change practices that will bring about greater care of our water resources.
It is thus becoming clear that awareness raising campaigns can only play a small part in solving our water issues. To enable South African Society, as a whole, to manage water resources more wisely, well-informed management is crucial.
To achieve this, more creative and engaging human capacity development programmes are vital. For substantial change in the way in which people use, and learn not to abuse water supplies, we need a framework, or scaffolding, that provides a coherent pathway from current, unsustainable practices to more sustainable and wise ways of managing and using our water resources. In essence, these are the goals that the WESSA human capacity development programmes for wise water management are seeking to achieve.
The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) – working with WESSA to secure sustainable water practices
Through a creative partnership DWS is currently supporting WESSA to manage a country-wide project that involves schools and school communities across South Africa. This partnership, the DWS/WESSA Eco-Schools Water Project, is demonstrating how civil society partnerships can support DWS to achieve its mission and vision. In just over four months of concerted activity, 50 water-wise projects have been established in schools and communities across South Africa (See Geographical Distribution Map below). Such projects are going beyond awareness-raising and many schools are already reporting how they are saving thousands of litres of water every month.
WESSA: Supporting adult based accredited training in specifically targeted priority areas
Supporting schools to undertake meaningful water projects is just one level of society engagement. Adult-based training and service delivery expertise is also imperative in achieving a nation that is able to manage its water resources well. In this regard WESSA, an accredited training service provider, is empowering local municipalities and even district municipalities in integrated water resource management. Of particular significance here is the range of courses on environmental practices which support municipalities, who are the legal guardians of our water resources, to fulfil their mandated obligations.
Lemson Betha, the manager of the Umngeni catchment-based capacity building programme, points out how WESSA is supporting the uMsunduzi local municipality and the Umgungundlovu District Municipality (UMDM) to meet their Integrated Development Plan (IDP) obligations and commitments: “Working closely with senior staff of uMsunduzi, such as Thami Vilakazi (Msunduzi Education and Training Development Practitioner), Nosipho Moyo (UMDM Control Environmental Officer) and Mandisa Khomo (UMDM Chief Planner) we are able to provide relevant, work-place-based training programmes that support people to understand and meet their water conservation targets.”
To change behaviour one needs to start with the very behavioural practices people are engaging in. Training courses do this by commencing with the practices that are problematic at a municipal level and work from there to reduce the impacts. One reason that awareness-raising has such limited potential is that it is essentially a ‘centre-to-periphery’ or ‘top-down’ process, from those who know to those they are seeking to inform. Such one-way transfers of information cannot provide adequate, active engagement in the water-use issues or water-use practices.
It is here that WESSA’s environment practices courses really do make a difference. Early on in the course participants document their water resource use challenges and, working with well- trained tutors, develop practical methods to change the way water is managed. Course participants then implement change projects at their workplaces. These change projects provide support for changing practices in the use and management of water. The change project then becomes the measure of how water is conserved and used more wisely. The change projects are also part of the methodology through which the course outcomes are evaluated.
A ‘Portfolio of Evidence’ (POE) is developed and submitted to WESSA and the National Qualifications framework (NQF) to secure the qualification for the successful local government officials.
In just six months, from January to June 2014, more than 800 local government officials, including supervisors, managers and workers, have successfully completed environment practices training through WESSA’s own accredited training department, SustainEd.
Going beyond awareness with citizen science practices
“Today we all became important scientists, working with WESSA to explore our streams through the Stream Assessment Scoring System” (Pam Tshwete, Deputy Minister, DWAS, 1 July 2014)
One of the most effective ways of going beyond awareness-raising is to use citizen science to mobilise people to find out about water issues and to take action to solve them. Pierre Spierer, Vice- Rector for Research of the University of Geneva, describes citizen science as ‘… a grass-roots movement which challenges the assumption that only professionals can do science. Given the right tools and incentives, and some online training, millions of enthusiastic volunteers can make a real difference, contributing to significant scientific discoveries’.
On 1 July, 50 school teachers and over 100 pupils joined Pam Tshwete, her senior staff and other WESSA members to explore and document the water quality of the Modderfontein stream which flows through Johannesburg close to OR Tambo International Airport. Using a simple identification sheet, developed by GroundTruth and WESSA, participants were able to identify the insects that live in the stream.
These insects have a story to tell and, because some of them are sensitive to pollution, the miniSASS research methodology helps participants to work out a river health index for the stream. Because the Modderfontein stream is part of the main drainage system of the eKurhuleni industrial area, the river health index only scored 4.25 which means the stream quality is very poor (this indicates that the natural stream has been transformed by human activities).
Once the test had been completed the results were loaded onto the miniSASS Google Earth platform at www.miniSASS.org. The score is represented on Google Earth as a ‘purple crab’ which now appears on the map and the Deputy Minister named the site the ‘Tshwete science’ biomonitoring site! This now means that anyone can see the stream quality, and eKurhuleni, who are responsible for water resources in this municipality, have made a commitment to improve the water quality. This is not an easy task in an industrial area such as this.
The miniSASS project won the Water Research Commission’s (WRC) community empowerment award for 2013! In a further development the British High Commission have invested in a project to build a network of skilled miniSASS trainers across South Africa and into the SADC region.
The WESSA Water Programme: Vision and Overview
The vision of the WESSA Water Programme is to work together in using South Africa’s water resources wisely, thus securing safe, adequate and fair water supply to realise our current and future aspirations towards a common good and healthy life support systems.
The Water Programme aims to improve the quality, availability and distribution of water resources in order to enhance the goods and services that they provide. With a focus on water issues in catchment areas, river and estuarine systems, human settlements and SADC transboundary areas, WESSA works with government departments, local and traditional authorities, urban and rural communities and representatives of SADC countries to strengthen water governance and management; improve stewardship; and make social, ecological and economic contributions.
Human Capacity Development in the Umngeni Catchment – An urgent national priority
The Umngeni River currently provides fresh water for over 5 million people who live and work in the cities of Pietermaritzburg and Durban.
Although this area is South Africa’s second most important economic region, its water resources are being overexploited and polluted at an alarming rate.
Although awareness about the predicament is high, little is being done to overturn the unsustainable utilisation or to prevent the pollution, which includes solid waste, nutrient loading and total coli-form, from entering the river. Since many organisations and institutions are responsible for water management in the Umngeni Catchment, WESSA,withthesupportofWWF,undertook a research process to establish just who the priority groups were that should undergo capacity building.
This study, which included stakeholder consultation through a socio-ecological
power-mapping process, clarified who the main influencing organisations in the catchment really are. The research then established which organisations had high influence, but low understanding of sustainable water-use practices, so that these groups could participate in a coherent and well organised learning programme.
This research work has now been taken further and has been used to plan a capacity building programme within the Umngeni Catchment through which Councillors, Planners, Local and District Municipal staff and other members of the public are involved. All participants in this training process are learning about, and beginning to undertake, wise water management practices. Our hope is that these efforts will not be too little, too late.
Many people and organisations are contributing to human capacity development to ensure that the quality, quantity and equitable access to water becomes a reality in South Africa. In particular WESSA would like to acknowledge support from the Department of Water and Sanitation, the Water Research Commission, GroundTruth, WWF (Maas Maasen), The British High Commission, SANBI and USAID.
Source: The Sustainable Water Resource Handbook Volume 5
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The planned Majuba tie-in and maintenance outage on the bulk water pipeline supplying Kriel in Emalahleni Local Municipality was under way and proceeding according to plan, the water and sanitation department said on Thursday.
“This outage started on Monday, 23 February and is planned to end on 9 March 2015,” spokesman Sputnik Ratau said in a statement.
“All prior preparations in this regard have led to a smooth start and operation of the outage over the past few days of the first week.”
The department was performing maintenance work on the pipeline, installing new valves and replacing leaking pipes with new ones as Eskom was busy with the construction of a railway line from Ermelo to Majuba power station.
The railway line crosses the department’s pipeline between Rietspruit reservoir and Davel.
“Eskom therefore requested a 1/8department 3/8 outage to tie in with the permanent deviation of the pipeline to the existing structure as per 1/8department 3/8 approved design,” Ratau said.
“The deviation of the structure has been approved by the 1/8department 3/8 engineers and the 1/8department 3/8 engineers are involved with the quality control during the construction phase.”
The department and Emalahleni local municipality were supplying water to the area through strategically placed tanks within a reasonable distance.
“The department is confident in the capacity of its workforce engaged in this task and that the work will be completed within the time targeted,” Ratau said.
“The work that has already happened gives the department the full confidence that all care is being taken to ensure there are no glitches and the work has demonstrated how single-mindedness of purpose can achieve a lot.”
The department and all stakeholders requested patience and cooperation from all who were affected so that the planned outage period was not exceeded.
The department apologised for the inconvenience caused, but the planned outage was important for maintenance and sustainability of the infrastructure, he said.
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By Andreas Wilson-Späth
Supplying South Africa’s growing population with clean, safe drinking water is a major challenge. Not only is the country’s water infrastructure in need of refurbishment in some places and entirely absent in many others, but access to sufficiently large quantities of potable water is increasingly becoming a problem.
This is not only a South African problem, of course. With population and industrial growth, poor watershed management, the widespread pollution and deterioration of rivers and other freshwater ecosystems, and with the impacts of climate change becoming more apparent every year, the world is facing a water crisis of potentially devastating proportions. By 2025, the UN estimates, some two-thirds of the planet’s population could be experiencing water stress conditions, especially those living in the dryer parts of the developing world.
You might have wondered why we haven’t used desalination of seawater to help us resolve our water supply problems. After all, much of South Africa is literally surrounded by oceans of the stuff. In addition, there is plenty of brackish groundwater in inland areas that could be converted into fresh water useable in agriculture, industry and for domestic use.
The basic technology is ancient. Humans have distilled salty water into potable water for centuries. So why not now?
Large-scale desalination plants are, in fact, increasingly being used worldwide. Thousands of them are in operation – the greatest number in the Middle East, from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait to Oman and Qatar. Most of Israel’s water already comes from such installations. The USA is home to about 300 of them and California, a state in the grip of the worst drought in history, is investing billions in the technology.
Several South African municipalities are considering desalination as part of their future water supply plans and government has suggested that in 15 years’ time as much as 10% of the country’s total urban water supply might be provided in this way.
The largest local desalination plant was opened in Mossel Bay in 2011 and mostly services PetroSA’s synthetic fuel operation there.
So what’s the problem? Although the technology has been improving steadily, there are several hitches. Most importantly it takes a lot of energy to convert salty water into fresh water.
In conventional high-pressure reverse osmosis systems, a large amount of electricity is needed to push saline water through a series of progressively finer membranes to remove salt and other chemicals. Using a more traditional distillation process, lots of electricity is used to heat water to its boiling point.
This massive energy requirement means that desalination plants tend to have large carbon footprints and contribute significantly to climate change – and thus to even worse water problems. Until now, large-scale desalination has only been a viable option for rich countries or those with plenty of fossil fuel to burn.
A secondary environmental problem results from the fact that for every litre of fresh water produced, about two litres of raw salty water needs to be processed, leaving behind significant quantities of toxic brine which can contain a variety of pollutants and represents a considerable threat to coastal ecosystem if it’s carelessly discarded into the ocean.
In a number of countries, including the Unites Arab Emirates, the USA and Australia, progress is being made in using renewable energy sources, principally the power of sunlight, to drive the desalination process. While this might be a low carbon alternative to conventional methods, the technology is still at an early stage of development and can’t be relied upon to solve our water problems at this point in time.
For now, the answer must lie in conserving existing freshwater sources. We can go a long way in countering the growing crisis by putting effort into water conservation strategies, using our precious freshwater more efficiently, with less waste, reusing water wherever possible, capturing stormwater that would otherwise just run into the sea and recycling used water whenever that is an option.
Ultimately, what’s required is a change in attitude from all of us. We need to change the way we look at water. We need to stop taking it for granted and treat it as a precious resource that needs to be treasured instead of wasted.
I’m part of a new non profit organisation called The Watershed Project. Our aim is to raise public awareness about water in all its aspects. Visit our website for more information, follow us on Twitter (@WatershedSA) and in March, join us for a festival of exciting water related activities from fun walks to outdoor film screenings (only in Cape Town for this year, but expanding to other parts of the country from 2016).
Source: News 24
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Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane has welcomed 34 Cuban water experts, who are in the country to share their skills to improve the quality of water.
The arrival of the experts follows a bilateral agreement between South Africa and Cuba in 2014 on cooperation in the fields of water resources management and water supply.
In October 2014, Water and Sanitation Deputy Minister Pam Tshwete went to Cuba on behalf of Minister Mokonyane to ratify the agreement and to appoint the water experts.
The specialists have been contracted to work in South Africa for two years, with the possibility of extending their stay by another year.
The recruited Cuban specialists include civil, electrical, hydraulic and mechanical engineers, and irrigation and drainage specialists.
The recruitment of the engineers also involved the participation of a South African organisation of engineers, which helped the department to identify the specialists.
“The specialists will be deployed at the department’s head office in Pretoria as well as in rural parts of South Africa where there is a shortage of skill. The experts are recruited at a middle management level (deputy director) in terms of the remuneration levels of government, costing the government less than R500 000 per person per annum.”
Speaking at the welcoming ceremony held on Sunday afternoon at Sheraton Hotel, Minister Mokonyane said even though Cuba was a small country, it was a country with a big heart.
“South Africans would not forget the many Cuban soldiers who sacrificed their lives in Angola and Namibia for the sake of the freedom of the Southern African nations. Even though referred to by some historians as the forgotten war, South Africa did not forget and we shall never forget.
“We still cherish the passion that was displayed by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara for their determination to liberate our nations. We also appreciate the fact that Cuban doctors are working with our national Department of Health to improve the quality of life of our people,” Minister Mokonyane said.
She said the Cubans should engage South Africans politically during their stay in SA.
“It’s all about development and the strengthening of relationships between South Africa and Cuba. Some of you will work in far flung rural areas where the nearest town is 70 kilometres from where you live.
“Your passion to serve and the pride to maintain your national identity is inspirational to us. We encourage you to establish new friendships and new relationships because it’s in the nature of human beings to establish relationships wherever they go,” the Minister said
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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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