Things are looking very promising for South Africa’s very first water fund. The City of Cape Town and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) recently formally agreed to establish the fund for the drought-stricken city in an attempt to safeguard water supplies and biodiversity, while also creating employment opportunities for local communities.

Cape Town has been experiencing dire drought conditions for almost two years now. Falling into the Western Cape’s Mediterranean climate, the province is hopeful that it will receive much of its rainfall this upcoming winter.

The Cape Town metro is 2,445 km2 in size and has a population of approximately 3.8 million people. The city experiences an annual growth rate of almost 3%.

Residents across the city who have been grappling with the drought responded to the rising demand for water by implementing the city’s award-winning water conservation and demand management programme. However, the ongoing drought and long-term climate change means that further efforts are required.

The water fund will be based on TNC’s successful global model. The city said that the pilot project will target the Atlantis aquifer, a water-bearing layer located underground.

However, the recharge of the aquifer is currently under threat by invasive alien plant species and encroaching urban development. By focussing on ecological rehabilitation, the area’s water catchment capacity will be improved while at the same time reducing soil runoff and curbing the intrusion of environmental pollutants.

In addition to improving Cape Town’s water security, the city said the project could also create jobs in economically disadvantaged areas nearby, including Atlantis, Mamre and Pella via the Expanded Public Works Programme.