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Acheiving the SDGs in Hermanus and Atlantis

Umvoto is involved in multiple projects that work towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) put forward by the United Nations (UN). This article describes how two major groundwater projects, namely the Hermanus Groundwater Management Project (under the Overstrand Local Municipality [LM]) and the Atlantis Water Resource Management Scheme [AWRMS] upgrade (under the City of Cape Town’s New Water Programme [CCT NWP]) relates to SDG 6 – “clean water and sanitation for all”.

The SDGs are the UNs call to action for all countries to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. Each goal is direct and specific to one change required in working towards prosperity, and these include but are not limited to no poverty, zero hunger, gender equality, clean water and sanitation for all, and climate action to name a few. It is a well known fact that South Africa is a water scarce country, and therefore SDG 6 is an important goal to achieve. However, due to the size and complexity of these projects, they also contribute towards other SDGs, namely:

  • SDG 8 – “decent work and economic growth”, by providing work opportunities and stimulating the economy through water supply for development (assisting with SDG 1, 2, 3 and 10 in the process);
  • SDG 9 – “industry, innovation and infrastructure”, by ensuring that the various wellfield development infrastructure is sustainable, resilient and inclusive;
  • SDG 11 – “sustainable cities and communities” by providing alternative water sources and reusing wastewater, improving sustainability; and
  • SDG 15 – “life on land”, by mitigating surface/groundwater contamination and ensuring cleaner ecosystems (this also assists with SDG 14, ensuring clean water is discharged into the ocean).

Hermanus Groundwater Management Project

Umvoto has provided the Overstrand LM with consulting services for almost two decades.  Umvoto has extensive experience in Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) and has coordinated the conjunctive use of Hermanus surface (from the De Bos Dam) and groundwater (from the fractured quartzitic sandstones of the Table Mountain Group Aquifer [TMGA]) to ensure the social and economic welfare of the town, while equally ensuring sustainable use of the resources with very limited impacts to the surrounding environment. The contribution of the TMGA groundwater resource ensures that the Overstrand LM can supply its residents with clean, safe drinking water and sanitation, meeting SDG 6 even during drought periods (as recently experienced in the Western Cape). The Hermanus groundwater scheme involves three TMGA wellfields (the Gateway, Camphill and Volmoed Wellfields) supplying groundwater to a water treatment facility (to remove elevated geogenic iron and manganese), where the groundwater is blended with surface water from De Bos Dam and treated to South African National Standards (SANS) for drinking water.

Umvoto’s prime function is to provide guidance to the Overstrand LM on management of the utilised TMG aquifer, and ensure protection and sustainable use of the groundwater resource in line with the municipality’s groundwater abstraction water use licence from the national Department of Water and Sanitation. It achieves this through hydrodynamic (water levels in both production and monitoring boreholes, and abstraction rates in production boreholes) and hydrochemical monitoring of the three TMG wellfields, executed remotely on a continual basis (via telemetry) and ground-truthed (via site visits) on a quarterly basis. This monitoring data feeds into numerical groundwater modelling of the TMGA, to allow for longer term aquifer management decisions. In addition, several sports grounds in the greater Hermanus area and the Hermanus Golf Course use treated effluent from the Hermanus Wastewater Treatment Works for irrigation, to minimise the usage of treated potable water. Umvoto also monitors private boreholes surrounding these sports ground areas to ensure that there is no contamination of underlying groundwater through treated effluent irrigation.

CCT Atlantis Water Resource Management Scheme

The AWRMS started in the 1970s and to date has over 40 production and 100 monitoring boreholes. Groundwater is abstracted from two wellfields within the coastal dune sands of the primary Atlantis Aquifer, namely the Witzands and Silwerstroom Wellfields, and is used for domestic (drinking and sanitation), commercial, industrial and small-scale agricultural use. In 2018 during the peak of the “Day Zero” drought crisis, the CCT decided to refurbish and optimise the AWRMS as one of the ways to alleviate future droughts through groundwater abstraction as part of the NWP.

There are three components of the AWRMS that aid in providing water to the CCT suburb of Atlantis. The first is groundwater abstraction from the wellfields. The second is to facilitate Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) by means of capturing stormwater runoff and treating wastewater upgradient of the Witzands Wellfield, and allowing the water to infiltrate into the Atlantis Aquifer via multiple recharge basins (maintaining groundwater levels and wellfield yield). The last component involves the treatment (de-alkalisation/softening) of raw groundwater and subsequent supply of potable water to the Pella and Hospital Reservoirs for domestic and industrial use. Umvoto’s role in this project is to facilitate the expansion of the wellfield by drilling new production boreholes, exploration drilling and geophysics to inform future wellfield expansion plans, expansion of the groundwater monitoring network to monitor water levels and water quality, and develop a numerical model to simulate multiple abstraction and recharge scenarios (to make sound and timeous) water resource management decisions.

The refurbishment and optimisation of the AWRMS provides meaningful contribution to SDG 6 by providing clean water to Atlantis, while ensuring the long-term sustainability of the Atlantis Aquifer groundwater resource. In addition to the existing AWRMS, Umvoto is also exploring and developing the coastal primary Cape Flats Aquifer (within the CCT’s municipal boundaries) and fractured TMGA (in the vicinity of Steenbras, Eikenhof and Theewaterskloof Dams) for the CCT under their NWP, additionally contributing to SDG 6.

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