Cape Town, South Africa
City population: 433688
Duration: 2018 – 2018
Implementation status: Completed
Scale: Meso-scale: Regional, metropolitan and urban level
Project area: unknown
Type of area: Other
Last updated: November 2021

The Nature Conservancy established the Cape Town Water Fund in 2016 using the worldwide applied water fund to enable downstream water users to invest in land conservation and restoration upstream. (4,5) In 2018, the Water Fund started its pilot project on the catchment area of the Atlantis Aquifer, outside of Cape Town's boundaries on state land. The pilot project "seeks to increase water supply to Cape Town by removing invasive plant species in water catchment areas. Invasive species have been found to use significantly more water than indigenous species and uptake millions of litres of water from the catchment area annually that would otherwise be added to the city’s water supply" ( 1 p7). The intervention also supports the empowerment of marginalized communities by providing training and employment for them. As one of the main characteristics of the water fund model, various local stakeholders from all sectors are invited to develop and implement water connected challenges (1).



Nature-based solution

  • Green areas for water management
  • Other

Key challenges

  • Climate action for adaptation, resilience and mitigation (SDG 13)
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Water management (SDG 6)
  • Stormwater and rainfall management and storage
  • Green space, habitats and biodiversity (SDG 15)
  • Habitat and biodiversity restoration
  • Inclusive and effective governance (SDG 16)
  • Inclusive governance
  • Effective management
  • Social justice, cohesion and equity (SDG 10)
  • Social justice and equity
  • Environmental education
  • Economic development and employment (SDG 8)
  • Employment/job creation


Management of rivers and other blue areas, Ecological restoration of degraded ecosystems, Improved governance of green or blue areas

Project objectives

- Conservation of water by the removal of water demanding invasive species (1) - Provision of the economic, scientific, financial circumstances along with substantial governance model essential to extend the scope of the invasive plant clearing activities as the major water supply strategy (1) - Establishing the governing model of the Great Cape Town Water Fund including (1)

Implementation activities

- Removal of invasive plant species in the Atlantis Aquifer catchment area (1) - Restoration of indigenous ecosystems (1, 5, 6) - Restoration of recharged ponds as aquifers (1) - Development of project reports supporting the economic, scientific and legal basis of invasive species clearing beyond the pilot project (1) - Proof for the viability of the Water Fund model for Cape Town (1,2,5)

Climate-focused activities

Climate change adaptation:

  • Implement sustainable urban drainage infrastructure (e.g. to make space for water)
  • Renaturalization of rivers and other water bodies
  • Increase the use of climate-resilient plant species (resistant to drought, fire, and pests)
  • Other

Biodiversity conservation or restoration-focused activities

Biodiversity restoration:

  • Rehabilitate and restore damaged or destroyed ecosystems
  • Restore species (native, endangered, or unspecified)
  • Clear and control invasive alien species

Main beneficiaries

  • Local government/Municipality
  • Public sector institution (e.g. school or hospital)
  • Non-government organisation/Civil Society
  • Private sector/Corporate/Company
  • Citizens or community groups
  • Marginalized groups: Low income citizens, Other


Management set-up

  • Co-governance with government and non-government actors

Type of initiating organisation

  • Local government/municipality
  • Non-government organisation/civil society

Participatory approaches/ community involvement

  • Consultation (e.g. workshop, surveys)
  • Co-management/Joint management

Details on the roles of the organisations involved in the project

The Atlantis Aquifer pilot project was initiated by the Great Cape Town Water Fund which itself was in the design phase between 2016 and 2018. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) who applied the model in many locations tailored to the local settings to invest in nature conservation and restoration of upstream areas played a key role as an intermediary informing of the Great Cape Town Water Fund, a neutral third party body working for increased water supply for Cape Town. TNC brought together governmental bodies, municipality departments, research institutes and private sector actors to cooperate and find sufficient funding opportunities (primarily coming from the private sector) to the long term objectives of the Great Cape Town Water Fund. (1) In 2018, the feasibility of the Water Fund in Cape Town has been successfully proved, and the institutional and financial structure of the Water Fund has been established as an independent legal entity. The Great Cape Town Water fund steering committee includes The Nature Conservancy, National Department of Water and Sanitation, National Department of Environmental Affairs (Environmental Programmes), Provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, City of Cape Town, South African Biodiversity Institute, CapeNature, Coca-Cola Peninsula Beverages, Nedbank, Remgro Ltd, and WWF. (6)

Project implemented in response to ...

... an EU policy or strategy? No
... a national policy or strategy? Unknown
... a local policy or strategy? Unknown


Total cost


Source(s) of funding

  • Corporate investment
  • Other

Type of funding

  • Direct funding or subsidy
  • Unknown

Non-financial contribution


Impacts and Monitoring

Environmental impacts

  • Climate, energy and emissions
  • Strengthened capacity to address climate hazards/natural disasters
  • Water management and blue areas
  • Reduced risk of damages by drought
  • Enhanced protection and restoration of freshwater ecosystems
  • Green space and habitat
  • Increased conservation or restoration of ecosystems
  • Improved prevention or control of invasive alien species

Economic impacts

  • Increase of jobs
  • Generation of income from NBS

Socio-cultural impacts

  • Social justice and cohesion
  • Fair distribution of social, environmental and economic benefits of the NBS project
  • Increased visibility and opportunity for marginalised groups or indigenous peoples
  • Increased involvement of locals in the management of green spaces
  • Cultural heritage and sense of place
  • Protection of natural heritage
  • Increased sense of place identity, memory and belonging
  • Increased awareness of flora and fauna as culturally and historically meaningful
  • Education
  • Increased knowledge of locals about local nature

Type of reported impacts

Expected impacts, Achieved impacts

Presence of formal monitoring system


Presence of indicators used in reporting

No evidence in public records

Presence of monitoring/ evaluation reports


Availability of a web-based monitoring tool

No evidence in public records