The Role Of Nature Reserves In Water ConservationJason Siddall
Water conservation has been a hot topic recently, especially in the wake of the debilitating drought experienced in the Cape. However, a recent article on News24 discussed some of the good that has come from this humbling experience. The piece says of water conservation, “Realising that leaders, global, national and local, can do only so much, communities have started working co-operatively and innovatively together.” Indeed, that is a silver lining.
With so many people and organisations pulling together we – as a country – have uncovered and rediscovered some incredibly innovative water conservation methods. And as advocates and ardent supporters of conservation as a whole, our team at Morning Sun Nature Reserve have a particular interest, as a nature reserve, in water conservation.
In sharing our water efficiency methodology with other businesses and nature reserves, we hope to educate, motivate and inspire others to follow suit.
Nature Reserves And Water Conservation
We have all learned some truly valuable lessons recently, and one of these is that water conservation is not simply about using less water. We’d like to highlight the various routes that our beautiful Morning Sun Nature Reserve has taken to conserve this precious resource.
Eradication Of Alien Vegetation
The Department of Environmental Affairs fights an ongoing battle against the invasion of alien vegetation. The reason for the control or eradication of the alien species varies, but when it comes to the Eucalyptus, one reason stands alone – water usage. Gum trees, or Eucalyptus, exist in a number of species but all are incredibly thirsty! Consider this: for every 1mm in diameter, a Eucalyptus consumes a litre of water per day.
That means that a small-ish tree with a 50mm diameter will suck up 50 litres of water every day. That is the average daily water budget imposed in Cape Town – per person. Knowing the toll that a cluster of gums will take on any given area, our team have eradicated around 7000 Eucalyptus trees in our nature reserve so far this year (2018), which equates to a saving of around 525 000 litres per day. Or, the daily water budget for 10 500 Capetonians! We’ve started on the smaller trees (50 – 75mm diameter) and our work on the bigger trees started in May. The trees and (wherever possible) the forestry-“waste” streams from these operations are recovered and utilised productively in a variety of manners. But this is a story for another day!
Avoiding Soil Degradation
Exotic vegetation such as gums and wattle, as well as noxious weeds, quickly spring up in areas devoid of natural species, consuming water and whatever nutrients are left in the soil. This was the case back in the 1970s when work began in transforming Morning Sun Nature Reserve from a tired and eroded landscape into what it is today. Carefully restoring indigenous vegetation to an exhausted area prevents and reverses soil erosion and allows grasses and other plants to take root. Local species thrive in the right location alongside their indigenous peers, and this healthy and balanced vegetation further reduces soil erosion, degradation and water loss.
Water Efficiency Management
Effective water management often requires a little forward planning, and we have a few options available to us after some careful forethought:
- A well-positioned borehole supplies clean drinking water from an aquifer to Morning Sun Nature Reserve staff and guests.
- A shallow groundwater pit, or reservoir, supplies water for gardening, the swimming pool, fires etc.
- Greywater runs into French drains which is then recycled into the groundwater reservoir for reuse.
- Water saving shower heads have been installed in some areas of the camp.
- All toilet water is recycled back to source through efficient septic tanks. In addition, we emphasise a strict maintenance schedule to ensure that our flushing systems are not defective, which can result in huge water loss.
- All staff are trained and encouraged to use water sparingly.
- Guests are encouraged to use towels repeatedly before being collected for laundering.
Gardening And Landscaping
We all want a beautiful garden, and nature reserves – in particular – want to attract visitors with their beauty. However, planting a thirsty expanse of lawn or fragile exotic plants will result in either bitter disappointment or higher-than-necessary water use. Sticking to indigenous plants (including grass species) allows for a beautiful natural setting while encouraging complementary wildlife to flourish. And of course, these hardy local species know how to conserve water and aren’t quite as needy as their exotic friends.
As a nature reserve, we take water conservation seriously and are constantly on the lookout for new and better ways to make the best use of this vital resource. We’d love for you to pay us a visit and share the incredible beauty that we enjoy caretaking every day in a responsible and careful way. Please contact us today.