Authors: Bethany McCullars; Marcel Paolillo
Advisors: Katherine Foo; Bethel Eddy
Category: First Year
The city of Cape Town, South Africa has suffered from a water crisis since 2015, the government of Cape Town declared an official water crisis in 2017. The city has fought an uphill battle against droughts and excessive water consumption in an attempt to restore water storage levels to stable conditions. Eventually, the city resorted to using tariffs on households to fund a water crisis contingent to attempt to combat the water crisis. This study focuses deeply on the history of the water crisis and the types of solutions utilized in the past to reduce the severity of the crisis. This study also proposes a solution involving the identification and removal of specific invasive plant species to increase the amount of water available to the citizens of Cape Town. Invasive species are a substantial hindrance to Cape Town’s water use by choking out endangered species and consuming large amounts of the groundwater, involved with critical dams and aquifers in the area; making these species a high priority for removal. Most of the underground water comes from the Cape Town’s dams and aquifers.These dams and aquifers are vital to Cape Town’s water supply because they are the main forms of infrastructure which provide water for the city. The most impactful species to this water crisis are mainly water intensive trees including various pine, eucalyptus, and acacia (commonly called “wattle”) species. Each of these species were brought for short-term commercial purpose and profit, in the form of lumber, fuelwood, or decoration. Removing these invasive species should be done close to the river and other bodies of water as these plants have a direct route to obtaining water from those sources. Preliminary research on the targeted invasive species showed that ring barking is the most effective way to permanently remove the harmful trees. Since the trees are evolved to endure natural fire cycles and seed germination is spurred by fire, burning is not an option for removal which further supports the ring barking solution. Our solution is economically beneficial as it requires about one-tenth of conventional solutions that are currently being used during the crisis. Prior conventional solutions involved building grey infrastructure, such as desalination plans and other water collecting stations, to combat the water crisis. In addition to this, the removal of invasive species allows the native flora to reinstate and ultimately increase biodiversity.
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