South Africa losing water supply to non-native plant species – Report

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A report has said that South Africa, a country struggling with acute water crisis, is losing up to 4% of its water supply to non-native plant species.

According to “Valuing Rivers” report, released by World Wide Fund for Nature in Stockholm – Sweden, the non-native species like eucalyptus are ‘thirstier’ than the native plants they have replaced, sucking up water through their roots and evaporating an additional 1.4 trillion litres of water in a year.

The report says that the loss could multiply as non-native species spread.

Cape Town, a city highly dependent on groundwater pumping and desalination during dry seasons has shown that investing in nature-based solutions can ease the dependency. This is according to World Wide Fund (WWF).

“The broader effort of cleaning non-native vegetation to boost water supplies has also employed 10,000 people, an important co-benefit in a country with 26 percent unemployment,” the report said.

The report underlined the advantage of healthy and functioning rivers in reducing natural calamities like flooding.

2 billion people globally rely on rivers for their drinking water while 500 million people live on deltas sustained by deposit from rivers. A quarter of the worlds’ food production relies on irrigation from rivers and two million tonnes of freshwater fish are trapped yearly. The demand for water is growing around one percent yearly as consumption patterns change and population growth continues.

The World Wide Fund said we run the risk of losing the advantages of rivers if we only consider them as sources of water, navigation, irrigation, flood control and hydropower. Rivers generate 17 percent of the world’s electricity and provide natural flood protection.

According to the report, a fifth of Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) lies within watersheds with very high water risk.