The City of Cape Town and international conservation organisation The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have formally agreed to establish a water fund for Cape Town. The aim is to safeguard water supplies and biodiversity while supporting local livelihoods.
The Cape Town Water Fund will be based on the Global Water Fund model which seeks to introduce a public-private partnership and innovative financing to conserve watersheds and water resources in Africa.
It is hoped that the Cape Town Water Fund, in collaboration with partners in the National Government, the Western Cape Government, Cape Nature and the Dassenberg Coastal Catchment Partnership, will ultimately secure water quality and quantity for the town of Atlantis through improving the ecological infrastructure.
It is foreseen that such a water fund could be launched by the end of 2017, if all goes according to plan.
Supplemented by local aquifers
The metro’s water supply system is dependent on a range of water catchment areas which lie outside of its boundaries. Piped water is supplied by 14 dams, with most of the water being supplied by the five largest dams.
"Water supply to the city is supplemented by water from local aquifers, with the largest being the Atlantis Aquifer. Not only could the water fund serve as an opportunity for creating jobs in the economically disadvantaged areas of Atlantis, Mamre and Pella, but it could also improve the water security in the area by enhancing water quality and quantity," said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Environmental and Spatial Planning, Councillor Johan van der Merwe.
"A local water fund would enable us to address our long-term water security concerns, while also unlocking the opportunities that this could bring for job creation and ecological infrastructure priorities."
The Cape Town metro is 2,445km² in size and has a population of approximately 3.8-million people, growing at a rate of almost 3% a year.
The city has responded to this growth in demand by implementing the award-winning Water Conservation and Water Demand Management Programme, thereby reducing annual water demand from 4% to 2.3%. It was named the winner in the Adaptation Implementation Category in the 2015 C40 Cities Awards in Paris. However, water security during current and future droughts remains an important objective of the city. A well-managed and continuous water supply is regarded as the key to ensure sustainability for future development, for communities, and for economic growth.
Cape floristic kingdom
Cape Town is located in the heart of the Cape floristic kingdom, which is not only the smallest of the world’s six floral kingdoms, but is second to the rain forests as the most diverse. Table Mountain National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the seven natural wonders of the world, is also found within the boundaries of the City of Cape Town metropolitan area.
Of the 19 fynbos vegetation types found within the boundaries of the metro, 11 are critically endangered and six are not found anywhere else in the world. Of the 3,250 plant species found within the boundaries of the city, 319 are threatened with extinction, and 13 are extinct in the wild. Cape Town covers only 0,1% of South Africa, but includes 18% of the country’s endangered Red List species.
The main threats to the unique biodiversity of the Cape floristic kingdom are urbanisation, human-induced wild fires, and invasive plants.
"A Cape Town water fund is likely to first focus on the Atlantis Aquifer Protection Zone, directing investments to conservation activities that will address the largest threat to the area’s ecological health and aquifer recharge: the spread of invasive plants that consume more water than native plants and limit rainwater recharge. By removing invasive plants, such as various non-native acacias, and restoring natural cover at scale, the water fund could help to catalyse a significant increase in aquifer recharge and associated water availability," said Colin Apse, Africa Freshwater Conservation director for The Nature Conservancy.
The Nature Conservancy is working with 60 water funds around the world, in different stages of development and operation. Water funds have been found to be proven platforms for building the financial and institutional mechanisms needed to unlock the benefits of natural infrastructure and provide significant returns to both public and private investors.
Going forward, the City and TNC hope to work with a coalition of partners to:
- Complete a feasibility study to evaluate the potential of a water fund to deliver the desired benefits for people and nature;
- Launch a water fund with a strong body of public- and private-sector stakeholders providing governance and financial support by the end of 2017; and
- Accelerate ecological infrastructure investment work in the Atlantis Aquifer Protection Zone to reduce threats to biodiversity and the city’s source of water, while creating local jobs.