Water is Life!
Without water, the human race would not exist and although much of our planet is covered with water, only 1% of it is usable to us, with 97% being salty and the remaining 2% being trapped in the ice caps. Despite this scarcity, we take water for granted, wasting and polluting it while nearly one billion people in the developing world don’t have access to it.
From a South African perspective, 84% of our aquatic ecosystems are vulnerable or endangered and only 18% of high water yield areas have any formal protection with most of this protection occurring in the higher catchment areas. The lowland reaches of rivers are largely unprotected and our wetlands are the most threatened of all South Africa’s ecosystems, with 48% of wetland ecosystem types being critically endangered. These scary statistics are according to the 2011 freshwater component of the National Biodiversity Assessment.
As climate change increasingly impacts our planet, droughts and flooding will become more frequent. Climate change also highlights the importance of protecting our water resources from over-abstraction, degradation and the spread of invasive alien plants. The mountain catchments that lie within protected areas are critical in this regard as they are the primary source of our water supply. As an example, a fynbos mountain catchment can lose up to 68% of its water yield due to a dense cover of invasive alien shrubs or trees.
It is definitely encouraging to note the importance that our conservation agencies, such as South African National Parks and CapeNature, place on protecting our water resources in the catchment areas, BUT saving water is everybody’s business. Water usage and wastage will continue rising, unless we as individuals make concerted efforts to reduce our usage and become more “water wise”.
Support water conservation by making an effort and educate yourself on how to reduce your direct water footprint!