Don’t Fiddle with our Water Factories
The water-bearing ecosystems – grasslands, forests and krantzes along the N3 Gateway are under threat from companies wanting to explore for unconventional gas. These ‘water factories’ of Mpumalanga, KZN, Free State and North West are essential for our survival, especially with the ever-increasing drought in the areas where many of our strategic rivers originate.
South Africa is a water scarce, semi-arid country, and less than 10% of the land in South Africa generates half the water we have available in our streams, rivers, and dams – the water factories. These include the Vaal Basin (which supplies Gauteng), the Buffalo River (which supplies a large part of KZN and joins the Thukela River at the Mooi River confluence), the iMfolozi River, which rises near Vryheid, the uMngeni River catchment which supplies 1000 million litres per day of potable water to a vast area including Howick, Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
The role of the Drakensberg and foothills as the water factories cannot be underestimated. Intact grasslands are important for storing rainwater in wetlands or as groundwater which is gradually released throughout the year. It is vitally important to protect these areas which sustain the flow of clean water, supporting the lives and livelihoods of people downstream. Other free ecosystem services provided by these grasslands include pollination, soil production, floodwater attenuation, carbon storage, cultural and tourism amenities.