South Africa’s first water fund is being established to help secure water for the city of Cape Town. The global conservation organisation, The Nature Conservancy, and the City of Cape Town have formally agreed to a water fund for Cape Town which aims to safeguard water supplies and biodiversity while supporting local livelihoods.
Water Funds have been developed as an innovative global mechanism to collaboratively finance the conservation of watersheds and water resources, thereby helping to secure water for the future. The Nature Conservancy is working with 60 water funds around the world, in different stages of development and operation.
The Conservancy has released a new study showing that the water fund model could be applied successfully in additional major cities on the continent. The Sub-Saharan Africa’s Urban Water Blueprint found that more than 80 million urban residents across 28 cities could improve their water security by investing in conservation activities such as forest protection and good farming practices in lands that drain into the rivers, lakes, and aquifers that supply their drinking water.
A Water Fund for Cape Town is particularly significant, given that South Africa is a water scarce country and in the context of current and predicted climate change impacts. Cape Town 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. A Cape Town Water Fund would likely 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 catalyze a significant increase in aquifer recharge and associated water availability.
According to the City of Cape Town, 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.
‘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,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Environmental and Spatial Planning, Councillor Johan van der Merwe.