By Neo Tsiu, Yumna Parker and Dona van Eeden
Source: Google Images
Water Scarcity in the City of Cape Town
Climate change has many detrimental effects on the environment, such as increased heat waves, droughts, floods, and rising sea levels. These effects are often spoken of as future threats, but we have already seen that we live in a world impacted by climate change.
In 2004 the City of Cape Town imposed water consumption restrictions when experiencing low rainfall winters. Fast-forward 11 years later. After having excellent rains in 2013 and 2014, in 2015, the City of Cape Town faced the harshest drought the city has ever seen. After three consecutive years of drought, water scarcity became a harsh reality that Capetonians never anticipated, given that Cape Town is surrounded by ocean water.
The City's Response to the Water Crisis
The city witnessed a rapid decline in dam level water from 71.9% in 2014 to 50.1% in 2015. In response to the crisis, the City of Cape Town implemented water restrictions as the drought threatened the City’s water supply.
The water restrictions came with many burdens on the city’s inhabitants; citizens could no longer enjoy reactional use of water, showers had to be cut short, drinking per capita was reduced, and even enjoy activities such as gardening were listed as “non-essential” water use.
The water crisis affected not only Cape Town but the whole of the country. Individuals and companies across South Africa were hard-pressed to come up with solutions to the shortage of water. In a miraculous show of innovation and collaboration, the City of Cape Town reduced water consumption by 43% by 2019. This was achieved through combination companies and individuals developing alternative, water-wise solutions for their normal activities.
Hart Nursery is an example of how local organisations took the initiative and came up with alternative ways of using water responsibly. Co-founded by Pam and Gary Hart, the Hart Nursery is an organic retail nursery situated in Cape Flats, 350 Ottery Road, Cape Town. Here you can find various products from vegetable, flower and herb seedlings, water-saving products, plant pots, organic fertilisers and pesticides, and many more.
As with all dark and stormy clouds, there is always a silver lining. It was a result of the water restrictions imposed by the City of Cape Town following the low rainfall winters that Hart Nursery adopted Xeriscape (pronounced ZEER-escape) methodologies.
Xeriscaping, a term coined in 1981, combines the words “landscape” and the Greek word “xeros”, which means dry, is a philosophy of water-smart and nature-friendly gardening. It is a gardening or landscaping method developed especially for dry or semidry climates by using water-conserving techniques. Hart Nursery adapted this term to fit local, Cape Town specific conditions and created XeriCape™, which focuses on plants suitable for the Cape’s climate.
XeriCape follows the 7 principles of Xeriscaping
1. Planning and design This gives a sense of direction and will ensure that water-conserving techniques are coordinated in the landscape.
2. Soil preparation and amendments Treating soil using organic matter like compost.
3. Efficient irrigation This can be done by hand or through a sprinkler system.
4. Zoning and plant choice Grouping your plants according to their needs for light, wind, and moisture.
5. Mulching It helps to keep plant roots cool, prevents soil from crusting, minimises evaporation and reduces weed growth.
6. Grass reduction and alternatives This serves to beautify the landscape.
7. Maintenance Weeding and grooming of plants.
“This gardening method is nothing really new and is based on seven basic steps of gardening organically. These methods dated back to Egypt 2000 years ago”, says Pam Hart.
Even though these methods are not newly discovered, they are more relevant now than ever with society shifting to more sustainable and organic alternatives. XeriCape uses drought-tolerant plants that are suited to the Cape area. These include mescal agaves, stripped-stemmed aloe, palms, rock roses, and cape daises – all of which can be found at Hart Nursery.