Cape Town, South Africa faces a complex water crisis. With its population rapidly growing in the face of climate change-induced droughts, the city has had to get creative about ensuring continued access to clean water for its residents.
Escaping Day Zero
In 2018, Cape Town narrowly avoided “Day Zero” – the day the taps would run completely dry. Now, thanks to an innovative partnership between Amazon Web Services (AWS), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the City of Cape Town, billions of litres of water are being returned annually to the region through nature-based solutions.
AWS invests in Cape Town Water Fund
As part of its pledge to be water positive by 2030, AWS recently announced the renewal of its strategic investment in TNC’s Greater Cape Town Water Fund.
The fund implements watershed restoration activities like removing invasive, thirsty plants from catchment areas that supply Cape Town’s reservoirs. This work helps conserve native vegetation, reduces wildfire severity, and allows more water to flow to the city.
Louise Stafford, TNC’s South Africa Country Director, highlighted the significance of AWS’ support and partnership. “The generous investments of Amazon Web Services have already had a significant impact in putting this science into action, and we are deeply grateful that they have chosen to continue this historic journey with us.”
The need for nature-based solutions
Cape Town has grappled with severe droughts over the past decade, bringing the city distressingly close to running out of water in 2018. Experts recognized the need for quick, meaningful interventions to boost water security.
Research indicated that thirsty non-native pine trees were soaking up huge volumes of water – 55 billion liters per year – in critical catchment areas outside the city. By removing these invasive pines and restoring native vegetation, more water could flow downstream to Cape Town’s reservoirs.
The Greater Cape Town Water Fund, launched in 2018, operationalizes this nature-based solution. Specialist teams ventured into remote, mountainous areas to uproot invasive pines across 130,000 acres of critical watersheds. It was clear that longer-term investments in ecosystem restoration would be required to provide lasting water security improvements.
The impact so far
The restoration efforts enabled by AWS, TNC, and other partners are already paying dividends. Approximately 15.2 billion litres of water are now flowing back into the Greater Cape Town region every year due to fewer invasive plants extracting water upstream. This figure is expected to grow as restoration activities continue through 2030.