Amazon Web Services (AWS) has today announced its renewal of a strategic investment in a leading watershed restoration project in South Africa, working in partnership with the Greater Cape Town Water Fund, led by The Nature Conservancy, to positively affect water sustainability in the region.
The GCTWF has been working towards creating a healthier, more water-secure future for the Cape Town region since 2018. The AWS-backed initiative has had a sizeable positive impact in Cape Town by applying a nature-based solution to droughts affecting nearby communities, with these essential works now set to continue until 2030.
The Fund, supported by AWS’s investment, enables watershed restoration activities that remove thirsty invasive plants from the main catchments that supply Cape Town’s water. On the outskirts of the city, invasive non-native trees such as pines have been soaking up 55 billion litres of water a year, and threatening one of the world’s rarest habitat types, the Cape Floristic Region.
Taking a nature-based approach to some of the worst recorded droughts in South Africa, the GCTWF brought in specialist local teams to remove these invasive pines from 130,000 acres, with high-angle rope technicians trained to work in remote and rugged areas. This essential work is now actively conserving native vegetation, reducing the severity of wildfires, and increasing the volume of water that flows into the city’s depleted reservoirs.
“The Greater Cape Town Water Fund stands as a testament to the power of nature-based solutions and the power of partnership,” says Louise Stafford, TNC’s South Africa Country Director.
“Our science showed the potential benefits of a water fund, the urgency, and the need to work at an unprecedented scale. The generous investments of Amazon Web Services have already had a significant impact in putting this science into action, and we are deeply grateful that they have chosen to continue this historic journey with us.”
Already nearly 15.2 billion litres of water are being released back into the Greater Cape Town region every year as a direct result of the GCTWF’s activity, and it is projected that this figure will grow as works remain ongoing across the landscape until 2030.
Water security is a major concern for the City of Cape Town, which faced a three-year drought between 2015 and 2018 and came very close to reaching “day zero” of all taps running dry in residential areas of the city. Cape Town’s population is growing fast. With climate models showing decreased rainfall coupled with increased temperatures in the future, nature-based interventions are now an essential and proven step to take in order to ensure that the City’s residents can continue to readily access water in the future.
Support for this project is part of AWS’ wider water positive commitment to return more water to communities than it uses in its direct operations by 2030. AWS will meet this commitment through four key strategies: water efficiency, sustainable sources, community water reuse, and water replenishment. AWS’ holistic approach to its business operations seeks to minimize energy and water consumption across its data center operations. It is already well on the path to becoming Water+ through replenishment projects like the Greater Cape Town Water Fund and through cloud-based innovation, using cloud technologies to continually improve water efficiency while simultaneously investing in projects that deliver water back to communities.
“The partnership between AWS and The GCTWF marks another significant step in AWS’ ongoing commitment to achieving our water-positive objectives, and our first contribution to improve water security for the City of Cape Town.” Says Will Hewes, Global Lead, Water Sustainability at AWS.
“We are thrilled to continue supporting this remarkable initiative, one that not only delivers immediate benefits for its citizens, but also one that also paves the way for a more sustainable and water-secure future.”
AWS is also supporting projects in Brazil, India, the US and the UK. With water scarcity becoming a growing environmental concern worldwide, AWS’ ongoing investment in water replenishment initiatives is helping to expand community water access, availability, and quality by restoring watersheds and by bringing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services to water-stressed communities worldwide. These water replenishment efforts provide nearly 2.4 billion litres of water each year to the communities where AWS operates with much more to come as AWS continues toward the 2030 goal.
The City of Cape Town has now integrated nature-based solutions into its municipal water strategy as a result of the success of the GCTWF project, and contributed $9 million towards restoring its watersheds. Over the next two years, the Greater Cape Town Water Fund will transition towards its ultimate goal of becoming an independent, locally-led entity.
“Together with the Government of Cape Town, our many partners, and generous supporters like AWS, we are building a better water future for citizens and conserving one of the rarest habitats on Earth.” Remarks, Stafford.
The ongoing success of the Cape Town project is a positive and proactive step towards ensuring that all people globally have availability to water: a key strategic priority for a global business that leads the way on water stewardship in its cloud operations.