The location of the Mbekweni artificial wetland (screenshot)
  • An R2.5 million artificial wetland is set to be built next to the Mbekweni informal settlement in Paarl, Western Cape.
  • The provincial government says the Berg River is being contaminated by waste water and refuse off-flow from the settlement.
  • The contaminated water threatens the future of farms which use the water for irrigation.
  • The wetland should help to reduce E. coli bacteria, phosphorus and nitrogen in the water.  

An R2.5 million artificial wetland is set to be built next to the Mbekweni informal settlement in Paarl, Western Cape, to assist farms at risk of irrigating with contaminated water.

The 1.4-hectare wetland next to the Berg River will support a region where 75% of production is exported to European markets, according to a tender by the Western Cape government. 

Contaminated water from the Berg River threatens the future of farms which uses the water for irrigation.

A view of Mbekweni informal settlement next to the proposed location of the artificial wetland (screenshot)

 “[The project aims to] reduce the impact of contaminated stormwater flows on the Berg River, emanating from urban and peri-urban areas in the vicinity of Mbekweni,” the provincial government said. 

This includes wastewater and refuse off-flow. 

“[The ideal supplier needs to] provide a cost-effective, community orientated and sustainable model for interventions which prevent pollutants and contaminants from entering our freshwater resources while improving the socio-economic conditions of the local community.”

(supplied: Western Cape government)

The project, a part of bigger Berg River Improvement Plan, is set to be completed by 2020.

Community members will be directly involved in the project and indigenous plant species planted to filter incoming water. 

The technical design and implementation of the project are subject to the final supplier, to be appointed by the end of the year. 

A view of a section of Berg River near Rawsonville, Western Cape, before and after invasive species clearing (supplied: Western Cape Government)

Ultimately the project aims to restore water quality to South Africa Water Quality Guidelines by 2042. 

E. coli bacteria, phosphorus, nitrogen, temperature, electrical conductivity and pH need to be reduced in the water. 

“Water quality [needs to be restored] to a level, where its value for ecosystem services is recognised, and in doing so promote sustainable growth and development towards a green economy,” the Western Cape government said.