#WaterCrisis: Why nature reserves are important for our water systems

2018-03-12 15:30
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Cape Town - Do you know where your water comes from?    

According to CapeNature, just 8% of South Africa's total land area produces 50% of its water. Water, our most precious natural resource, and water security can thus be said to be largely dependant on the conservation and protection of these strategic water resource areas. 

The land responsible for this massive contribution to our very survival, are largely mountainous areas and related rain catchment areas. Cape Town, more specifically, depends on the resource areas in the Boland Mountains, Groot Winterhoek and the Cape Peninsula. Reserves such as Hottentots-Holland, Limietberg, Groot Winterhoek and the Table Mountain National Park thus serve a critical function in ensuring water security for South Africans in the area.

SEE: #WaterScarcity: Hanekom calls on travellers to keep saving water as Cape Town tops world's 20 most at risk cities

Despite their importance, these and other strategic water resource areas are threatened by a multitude of various factors.

Invasive alien plant species are among some of the greatest threats to South Africa's water security. Wattles, pines, gum and others contribute to the problem of water scarcity by overwhelming indigenous plant life and consuming excessive amounts of water in dry seasons, thereby contributing to high fire danger conditions.

When land is dry then fires are frequent and this has a knock-on effect in that biodiversity is lost, leaving topsoil exposed that may then be washed into streams and rivers.

Humans also have an impact on reserve's ability to sustain water supplies. Poor land management is one such example and occurs when development is inconsiderate of the environment.

This is especially evident in agriculture where water resources are diverted in a way that damages local ecosystems and the organic process of water catchments. A more insidious and obvious human activity that poisons water resources is pollution. 

UPDATE: Cape Water Update: Water consumption reduced by 60% in 3 years, no Day Zero in 2018

Severe droughts, which South Africa is no stranger to, can adversely affect the flow of streams and rivers which, in turn, have further downstream consequences. Animal and plant life are all negatively affected as reproduction is adversely impacted upon. Droughts bring with them the increased risk of fire as vast areas that usually experience rains are left dry, which in turn restarts the whole cycle.

Healthy nature reserves and national parks mean cleaner water for our taps, so be sure to support your local spot with a long-weekend getaway. 

Want to know where you area gets its water? Check out WWF's handy guide to see where your water supply comes from