‘Being a water champion is important’

The Liesbeek River is benefitting from rehabilitation and reinvigorating the city.

You may have found last week’s Thrive EnviroQuiz article quite depressing, leaving you with a sense of hopelessness.

I wrote about how climate change is affecting the supply of stored fresh water and staple food in the Western Cape. The focus was on how poor communities, particularly those living in informal housing, will become more vulnerable to winter storms. Less readily available clean water, higher food prices and greater exposure to the elements is not good news to hear.

But it’s not all doom and gloom because this gives us undeniable motivation to improve the way we currently do things. Like an Olympic athlete training each day to be the best in the world, we can strive for the gold medal standard in water resource management.

What can you personally do about water scarcity? Should it even concern you, as a school pupil? You’re not working in government or a big business with the opportunity to influence a whole city to think and act differently. You’ve also probably got other more pressing things to worry about like passing exams, maybe saving for a new cellphone, or trying to look cool. It may seem out of your control but there’s a lot that you can do.

Unfortunately, too many young people and adults don’t take social and environmental issues seriously. This makes progress slow in tackling them. It’s not because people don’t care – most people do have a desire to care about their fellow human beings and nature – it’s because they don’t care enough.

There are other things that distract them.

People focus on what they think is most important in their lives and their actions reflect those priorities. So what do you think is important? The fact that you are reading this article and soon to participate in the 2016 Thrive EnviroQuiz suggests that being a water champion is important to you despite the other day-to-day challenges you face. You may not be working in an organisation with major influence, but that doesn’t matter.

You can still encourage those around you at school or home to prioritise water concerns and help shape a water sensitive community. Can you imagine the whole of South Africa becoming a nation focused on saving water?

Imagine Cape Town as a city where everything was designed to respect and conserve water resources? Think of every roof on every building being a roof garden, harvesting rainwater to grow vegetables. Think of all waste water naturally filtered through retention ponds. Think of our urban rivers such as the Liesbeek and Hout Bay teeming again with birdlife attracted to a healthy ecosystem. As the great Nelson Mandela said: it always seems impossible until it’s done.

Being a water champion able to influence others starts with upholding values that really make a difference in society – values such as concern for others; self-acceptance; connection to nature; social justice and creativity.
By acknowledging the importance of these values and working together to cultivate them, we can create a more compassionate society and a water sensitive city.


1. True or false: People living in informal houses are more vulnerable to storms.

2. What is another word for informal house?

3. Who memorably said “it always seems impossible until it’s done”?

4. Which of these does not mean ‘priority’: main concern, urgency, unimportant, or high status?

5. What can a roof garden be used for?

6. What is the purpose of a retention pond?

7. True or false: Increased birdlife is a sign of an unhealthy river ecosys- tem.

8. Name two urban rivers in Cape Town mentioned in the article.

9. Which of these values does not help build a nation or society: connection to na- ture, self-indulgent, concern for others, and self-acceptance?

10. True or false: A more compassionate society will help people respect and conserve water.


1. True

2. Shack

3. Nelson Mandela

4. Unimportant

5. Harvesting water and growing vegetables

6. Capture and filter waste water

7. False

8. Hout Bay and Liesbeek

9. Self-indulgent

10. True