WHERE HAS ALL THE WATER GONE?
Rustenburg – The warning that there will be no water in Rustenburg suburbs has become a familiar refrain so when Platinum Weekly discovered a recent scientific publication documenting that leaking drinking water had created a wetland in Kgaswane Mountain Reserve - visible on Google Earth Pro, we did not know whether to laugh or cry.
Wetlands are marshy areas where plants like reeds and sedges grow. They have many positive benefits including removing pollution from water. They are naturally found where the water table is close to the surface and their characteristic clayey soils cause cracking and damp damage when they are used for housing. Researchers from the University of Pretoria and the University of the Free State investigated Google Earth Pro images from 2004, 2009 and 2013 for the Rustenburg and Kgaswane Mountain Reserve area. They show that water infrastructure near the reserve was developed in 2009 to support the increased urbanisation of Rustenburg. However, by 2013 the huge amounts of drinking water that was leaking from this relatively new infrastructure had changed the soil and plants and developed an incidental wetland. By taking samples from the wetland as well as the water available for drinking purposes at the main gate of Kgaswane Mountain Reserve, the researchers confirmed that the new wetland was formed by municipal water. The water samples were tested at the Agricultural Research Council Institute for Soil, Climate and Water. In addition to the incidental wetland, a stream which before 2013 only flowed during the rainy season started to flow continuously with the added purified water that should have been provided to households. The increased wetness at the site of the leak resulted in Acacia trees dying.
The researchers wrote in the peer reviewed article that appeared in the South African Geographical Journal in December 2020 that the loss of drinking water has been reported numerous times and had not been fixed.
The full article can be accessed via www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03736245.2020.1851294
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