The observance of World Water Day on 22 March every year is a United Nations initiative, and this marks the 27th year. The focus is always on the importance of water and this year the theme is about water and climate change – and how the two are inextricably linked. The campaign shows how our use of water will help reduce floods, droughts, scarcity and pollution, and will help fight climate change itself.
“When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.” Benjamin Franklin
Energy and water self-sufficiency are increasingly important factors in home buyers’ choice of property, says Berry Everitt, Chas Everitt International group CEO. Cape Agulhas is a water-scarce area, and we need to work together to save water. This can be done individually, at home, but also within our greater community through coalitions.
At the southern tip of Africa, we have the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area, a conservation and agricultural area made up of an intricate water network that the people and wildlife here depend on for survival. But the importance of this water system goes much further: it’s likely that the underground rivers here feed water supplies to towns such as Struisbaai, Agulhas and Suiderstrand.
Water and climate change are also closely linked in the Nuwejaars Wetlands Ecosystem. This ecosystem consists of Palmiet (Prionium serratum) wetlands and peat-like soils. These provide important ecosystem services to society: they help purify water, they reduce the impacts of floods, and they allow for the sequestration of carbon.
Behind the management of this ecosystem is a group of dedicated custodians protecting it – consisting of farmers and the community of Elim. The conservation model they are using is new to South Africa and has now also been implemented with great success in other parts of South Africa.
The Agulhas Plain is considered a biodiversity hotspot, habitat of distinct fauna and flora. Of the 1850 plant species found here, at least 315 are of special concern (many found nowhere else in the world). The area is home to many threatened bird species including the Hottentot Buttonquail, Blue Crane, Black Harrier, Secretary Bird, Denham’s Bustard, Southern Black Korhaan, Agulhas Long-billed Lark and many more.
Here’s how the Nuwejaars water system works:
- The Nuwejaars River connects the wetlands and lakes of the NWSMA (Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area), and is fed by many smaller tributaries. The wetlands here act as a reservoir, as they are crucial in absorbing excess water flow.
- One wetland system, the Voëlvlei system, under normal circumstances drains into the Nuwejaars River.
- From here, the Nuwejaars River flows into the largest natural freshwater lake in South Africa, Soetendalsvlei (also in the NWSMA).
- When the vlei is full, it overflows into the Heuningnes River – feeding the Heuningnes Estuary in De Mond.
- BUT: During times of flooding, the Nuwejaars River flows into the Voëlvlei wetland system and vlei – which then absorbs this excess water. Marshes and wetlands can be found all along the Nuwejaars River, especially on those properties above the Soetendalsvlei – all essential in managing the natural flow of water.
And it’s not only the wildlife outside the river and wetlands that matter. The rivers and streams that feed into the Nuwejaars River are vital habitats for endangered species such as the endemic Heuningnes Redfin – a tiny fish standing on the brink of extinction.
Contribute to the ongoing Conservation work at the Nuwejaars SMA
Support the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area and help protect the region’s valuable wetlands and surrounding natural landscapes.
There are many reasons that contribute to the growing water crisis in South Africa. Climate change has affected water supplies within the region. Rains that usually come and supply the country's water have come infrequently. We should all be accountable for every drop of water that flows through our households, and fundamentally change the way we look at water conservation.
Chas Everitt Cape Agulhas supports Water Conservation in the Cape Agulhas area.