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Calls to Protect Cape Flats Aquifer and Philippi Farming Area

A study by Maryke Malan, a PhD graduate from the University of the Western Cape (UWC), sheds light on why rapid urbanization and increasing water demand in Cape Town pose a significant threat to the Cape Flats aquifer, a vital water source for the Philippi agricultural hub.

These issues were addressed at a recent seminar, organized by the Philippi Horticultural Area for Food and Farming Campaign, the Environmental Monitoring Group, and the Western Cape Water Caucus, that brought together community members, farmers, academics, and government officials.

Highlights from the study and seminar:

High Demand and Pressure on the Aquifer

  • Nearly 70% of Cape Town's vegetables are produced in Philippi, increasing pressure on the Cape Flats aquifer.

  • Urban development encroachment on the Philippi farming area is a significant concern.

  • Protection of the Philippi farming area and the Cape Flats aquifer is essential for maintaining food production.

Water Quality and Scarcity Concerns

  • Water quality deterioration and the importance of water security in Philippi were discussed.

  • Pollution threats included waste dumping, oil leaks, run-off from informal settlements, septic tank overflow, and air pollution.

  • Participants raised concerns about the shallow groundwater table in Philippi, making it susceptible to various pollutants.

Threats to the Cape Flats Aquifer

  • Solid waste disposal sites, wastewater treatment works, and effluents from surrounding urban and industrial areas pose threats to the aquifer.

  • Expansion of the local sand mine, growing informal settlements, and intrusion of residential and commercial areas further endanger the aquifer.

  • Community members highlighted issues with stormwater pipes removing water that could replenish the aquifer.

Research and Monitoring

  • Research conducted by UWC focused on the concentrations of heavy metals in crops, soils, and irrigation waters in Philippi.

  • The Department of Water and Sanitation indicated that groundwater from the Cape Flats aquifer was being monitored across Cape Town.

  • Unfortunately, monitoring faced challenges due to vandalized boreholes, and the city's municipality experienced water shortages, exacerbated by the growing urban population.

Conclusion: The Cape Flats aquifer's crucial role in sustaining agriculture and supplying water for Cape Town makes its protection imperative. Stakeholders must collaborate to address the pressing threats and challenges posed by urbanization and pollution to ensure the sustainability of this vital resource and the Philippi farming area.

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