Water for Africa’s tip:
Why our coastal towns rely on the Nuwejaars
There are more and more people moving to the most southerly tip of Africa. And this means that the role of the Nuwejaars wetlands has never been more important.
Towns around our coast, in particular Struisbaai, are expanding rapidly. In fact, the Suidernuus recently reported that Struisbaai is one of the fastest growing towns in South Africa, with building plans passed more than doubling in the past two years.
That means there needs to be sufficient water for these towns, which are almost exclusively reliant on groundwater. According to the Suidernuus of 25 March 2022, two new boreholes will be drilled in Struisbaai before the end of the year, with more planned for Agulhas in the future.
So where does the water come from?
Wetlands and rivers act as zones of either groundwater discharge or recharge, and the rivers and wetlands upstream from these towns, in particular, the Nuwejaars wetlands play a pivotal role in recharging the aquifers they are reliant on. It’s not only the amount of water that matters, but also the quality of the water – with wetlands playing an important role in filtering water before it ends up in aquifers.
Here’s what needs to happen to support these rising water needs…
Thirsty invasive alien plants need to be removed from along the riverbanks and in wetlands. That frees up hundreds of thousands of litres of water. And wetlands need to be able to filter the water, and must therefore be rehabilitated so that they can perform their function.
That’s where the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area (NWSMA) comes in, supported by WWF South Africa.
Through a project funded by WWF South Africa, the NWSMA is implementing restoration and rehabilitation activities along a 7.5 km stretch of the Nuwejaars River, and is also maintaining the gains made in a previous WWF South Africa project, which removed aliens along 7.6kms of the river.
Thanks to these interventions taking place over 440 hectares, channel choking due to alien plant infestation is being reduced, riparian edges rehabilitated, and infrastructure is being put in place to halt further degradation. This also means MORE water is available, and that the water is of a higher quality.
What’s more, this is not only essential for people – it also provides sanctuary and resources for wildlife, especially our important birdlife.
And our monitoring shows just how the bird species richness (the number of species) and abundance (the number of birds) have skyrocketed since the launch of the first WWF South Africa project in 2018, both increasing more than five-fold.
This project provides year-round employment to a team of invasive alien clearers led by Gerty Holtzhausen from Bredasdorp. The Overberg District Municipality also plays a major role, providing funding to boost alien clearing efforts here.
Decade of Ecosystem Restoration
We’re in the midst of the United Nations Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. So support to improve our ecosystems from these key funders such as WWF South Africa and the Overberg District Municipality is vital – and deeply appreciated.
What’s more, for those people moving to or living downstream of the Nuwejaars wetlands and relying on these water sources, this type of work has never been more important.