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South Africa’s First Water Fund

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The City of Cape Town and The Nature Conservancy are looking to establish South Africa’s first water fund.

The aim will be to safeguard water supplies and biodiversity, while supporting local livelihoods. The Cape Town Water Fund will be based on a proven model that builds financial and institutional mechanisms to mobilize investments in conservation of natural areas that are the sources of municipal water supply.

“The City of Cape Town and The Nature Conservancy have agreed to explore the development of a local water fund to address our long-term water security concerns, while also unlocking the opportunities that this could bring for job creation and ecological infrastructure priorities,” says Councilor Johan van der Merwe, the City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Environmental, and Spatial Planning.

The Nature Conservancy is working with 60 water funds around the world, in different stages of development and operation.  In 2015, the Conservancy worked with partners to launch Africa’s firstwater fund in Nairobi, Kenya. The fund is designed to help provide a cleaner, more reliable supply of water to over 9.3 million people and to maintain hydropower generation capacity that accounts for half of the nation’s energy supply. Conservancy scientists have found that targeted conservation actions upstream of Nairobi will generate more than US$2 of long-term benefits for every US$1 invested.

Water security is a pressing challenge in Africa, and could be a limiting factor in economic advancements.

“Water is at the center of the world’s growing demands for food, energy, and material goods, and the foundation of life,” said Colin Apse, Africa Freshwater Conservation Director, The Nature Conservancy.  “Water security is a pressing challenge in Africa, and could be a limiting factor in economic advancements.  As competition for finite water resources escalate, the demand for solutions that meet human needs without jeopardizing freshwater systems is urgent. Water funds open new pathways for collaboration across sectors to find solutions and for attracting the investments needed to put them into action.”

The Conservancy has released a new study showing that the water fund model could be applied successfully in additional major cities on the continent. The Sub-Saharan Africa’s Urban Water Blueprint found that more than 80 million urban residents across 28 cities could improve their water security by investing in conservation activities such as forest protection and good farming practices in lands that drain into the rivers, lakes, and aquifers that supply their drinking water.

For half of the 30 cities assessed — including Cape Town — the resulting benefits for improved water quality could offset the costs of conservation activities through reduced water treatment expenses.  Given the exceptional ecological significance of Cape Town’s adjacent natural areas, the city emerged a prime candidate for a water fund.  Savings on future water treatment and desalination costs alone could offset much or all of the costs of watershed conservation in Cape Town’s supply and recharge areas, providing dramatic return on investment.  Additional details http://bit.ly/2aFPybP

The Cape Town metro is 2 445 km² in size and has a population of approximately 3,8 million people, growing at a rate of almost 3% a year.

The City has responded to this growth in demand by implementing the award-winning Water Conservation and Water Demand Management Programme, thereby reducing annual water demand from 4% to 2,3%. It was named the winner in the Adaptation Implementation Category in the 2015 C40 Cities Awards in Paris. However, water security during current and future droughts remains an important objective of the City. A well-managed and continuous water supply is regarded as the key to ensure sustainability for future development, for communities, and for economic growth.

The City’s water supply system is inter-connected and dependent on a range of water catchment areas that lie inside and outside of the city boundaries, including 14 reservoirs and two aquifers, the largest of which is Atlantis Aquifer. Cape Town and these water sources sit in the heart of one of the most spectacular and unique natural areas on the continent — the Cape Floristic Kingdom — which includes Table Mountain National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with an estimated 2,200 plant species of which 67 are found nowhere else on Earth.

A Cape Town Water Fund would likely first focus on the Atlantis Aquifer protection zone, directing investments to conservation activities that will address the largest threat to the area’s ecological health and aquifer recharge: the spread of invasive plants that consume more water than native plants and limit rainwater recharge. By removing invasive plants, such as various non-native Acacias, and restoring natural cover at scale, the water fund could help catalyze a significant increase in aquifer recharge and associated water availability.

These initial investments could provide a boost to the economically disadvantaged towns of Atlantis, Mamre, and Pella. It is hoped that the Cape Town Water Fund, which is being explored with the collaboration of partners in the national government, Western Cape government, CapeNature, and the Dassenberg Coastal Catchment Partnership (DCCP), will ultimately help secure water quality and quantity improvements throughout much of the City’s system using ecological infrastructure investments.

Going forward, the City of Cape Town and The Nature Conservancy hope to work with other additional partners and investors from the beverage, manufacturing, food, and energy industries to:

·       Complete a feasibility study to evaluate the potential of a water fund to deliver the desired benefits for people and nature.

·       Launch a water fund institution with a strong body of public and private stakeholders providing governance and financial support by the end of 2017. 

·       Accelerate ecological infrastructure investment work in the Atlantis Aquifer Protection Zone to reduce threats to biodiversity, and the City’s source of water, while creating local jobs.

“Water funds offer the promise of a transformative and lasting approach to finance and governance for critical source water protection needs in South Africa,” said Apse.

Environment

Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations

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Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?

The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.

New Construction Options

One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.

In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.

The Simple Retrofit

From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?

Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.

Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.

Big Innovations

Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.

In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.

Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.

It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.

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Environment

How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions

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Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

Public Health Crisis

It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.

Eco-Friendly Vehicles

It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.

Used Cars

Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.

Public Perception

With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.

Progress

The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.

With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.

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