To implement sustainable management, one first needs to gain an understanding of the freshwater ecosystems. Ask the questions: What is the condition of the rivers, wetlands and aquifers? What can we do to improve these conditions and ensure water provision into the future?
Well, in the Western Cape, we know our lower foothill and lowland rivers and wetlands are in dire straits. Most of these ecosystems carry high levels of chemical, mineral and plastic pollution, making it unfit for use. Our mountain streams, seepage wetlands and upper foothill systems are generally in better condition and better protected.
Therefore, one focus towards sustainable management, as per the United Nations global Sustainable Development Goal 6 (https://sdgs.un.org/goals), should be towards improving water quality. A focus on improving and maintaining water quantity naturally goes hand in hand with clean water. Efforts linked to water quantity in the Western Cape for example, include the numerous Invasive Alien Plant clearing projects in the catchments. Here an example of current efforts are the Invasive Alien Plant clearing projects coordinated through the Greater Cape Town Water Fund (https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/africa/south-africa/).
In essence, through working together on all levels, from government to civil society, we can aim for and achieve sustainable water use, lowering pollution levels and protecting our water factories in the mountain catchment areas. But don’t forget that the plants and animals that call freshwater ecosystems home, also strongly rely on enough clean water and intact habitats. So sustainable management must be comprehensive and all-encompassing in its considerations.