Zandvlei Trust

Rivers and Wetlands in our backyards.

A  Z– fold pamphlet produced by Environmental Resource Management and Catchment, Stormwater and River Management.

Why our rivers and wetlands are important

If you are privileged enough to have a river flowing through the boundaries of your property or a wetland nearby, it is important to emphasize some of the basic reasons why our rivers are so important:

  • Rivers and wetlands form ‘green corridors’ which provide habitat and sustain a great diversity of aquatic and terrestrial plant and animal life;

  • Rivers are an essential part of the hydrological cycle and in urban environments convey storm water back to the sea;

  • Healthy aquatic ecosystems deliver many goods and services e.g. regulating flow, attenuating floods, removing pollutants etc. ; and

  • Rivers have irrefutable aesthetic and recreational value and if managed correctly will continue to enrich our lives into the future.

What the law says about rivers and wetlands

National Water Act:

You as landowner must take all responsible measures to prevent pollution of aquatic systems. Should any pollution occur, the polluter / landowner will be held responsible and will be held liable for the rehabilitation costs.

Stormwater By-law & Stormwater Management Policies:

You as the landowner are responsible to ensure that the river system functions effectively in the absence of any impediments. We need to protect our floodplains and ecological buffers and exclude construction activities from these areas. Also take note that only stormwater is permitted in the stormwater system.

National Environmental Management Act: 

You may have to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment if you are planning any–

  • Construction within the 1:10 year flood level or 32m from the river bank (i.e. buildings, bridges & walls).

  • Dredging, excavation, infilling, removal or moving of soil, sand or rock exceeding 5m³ from a river, stream, tidal river, in-stream dam, floodplain or wetland.


 Looking after the river / wetland on your property


  • Be aware that your garden and the stream may be home to important indigenous species e.g. Western Leopard Toad, Cape Galaxia, Cape Kurper.

  • Clear alien invasive plant species.

  • Retain a buffer zone between your garden and the stream channel or wetland, and vegetate with locally indigenous plants.

  • Plant a ‘rain garden’ or introduce appropriate stormwater treatment / infiltration measures to ensure the stream/wetland is not contaminated by run-off from your property.

  • Vegetate and, where necessary, protect eroding river banks with advice from and consent of the City.

  • Provide a gradual sloping riverbank.

  • Ensure fences abutting and crossing riverine corridors & wetlands are permeable (timber picket or palisade) to allow for faunal movement and the natural movement of water (including boundary structures).

  • Check and maintain your septic tank if you have one.

  • Work with your neighbour.


Do not:

  • Alter the water course or flow regime.

  • Dam the river.

  • Abstract water for any purpose without first obtaining written consent from the City.

  • Direct swimming pool overflow/discharge into the river or wetland.

  • Fill in the floodplain or ecological buffer adjacent to the river.

  • Plant alien & invasive plant species or introduce alien fauna such as fish from your fish tank / pond.

  • Use pesticides, herbicides & fertilizers in areas adjacent to aquatic systems.

  • Hose down dirty paved surfaces.

  • Dump domestic or garden refuse, pet waste, building rubble, chemicals or discharge contaminated water into the aquatic system.


Indigenous species you should plant

It is important to keep the river system as natural as possible for them to perform their vital functions.
The following indigenous plants species are recommended for any planting or restoration:


  • Ekebergia capensis (Cape Ash)

  • Ilex mitis var. mitis (Cape Holly)

  • Podocarpus latifolius (True Yellowwood)

  • Trichocladus grandiflorus (Wild Peach)

Shrubs, Groundcover & Aquatic plants:

  • Zantedeschia aethiopica (Arum lily)

  • Kniphofia uvaria (Red-hot Poker)

  • Chasmanthe floribunda (Cobra Lily/Piempiempie)

  • Dietes grandiflora (Wild Iris)

  • Cliffortia odorata (Cliffortia)

  • Chondropetalum tectorum (Elegia / Dekriet)

  • Ficinia radiata (Sedge/Stergras)

  • Watsonia spp. (Watsonia/Suurknol)

  • Prionium serratum (Palmiet/Palm Rush)

  • Aponogeton distachyos (Waterblommetjies)

  • Nymphaea capensis (Water Lily)

  • Nymphoides indica (Yellow Water Onion)

Alien plant species you should remove and avoid planting

Please avoid planting the following species and replace existing individuals with suitable indigenous options.

  • Arundo donax (Giant or Spanish Reeds)

  • Hedychium spp. (Wild Ginger Lily species)

  • Populus X canescens (Grey Poplars)

  • Salix babylonica (Weeping Willows)

  • Quercus robur (English Oak)

  • Acacia mearnsii (Black Wattle)

  • Pennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass)

  • Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum (Watercress)

  • Ricinus communis (Castor-oil plant)

  • Rubus spp. (Brambles / Blackberries)

  • Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s Wort)

  • Sesbania punicea (Red Sesbania)


Alien plant species

Alien plant species may exacerbate flooding & increase the risk of runaway fires, reduce our natural water resources, impact on the natural functioning of ecosystems and inhibit growth of indigenous vegetation. As required by law, they must be removed.

Five aquatic aliens you can help remove;

Kariba Weed (Salvinia molesta)

Parrot’s Feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum)

Red Water Fern (Azolla filiculoides)

Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)

Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes)


Tips for removal of aliens

  • Eradication methods for terrestrial and aquatic alien plants: hand removal, mechanical removal, approved chemical and biological control.

  • Start clearing from a point as far as possible up-stream and work in a down-stream direction.

  • Start from the highest point on the bank and move downwards.

  • Stockpile cleared plants away from the river and remove within one week to a City controlled dumpsite.

  • Regular follow-up clearing is essential.

  • Work with your neighbours.


If you need any additional information, please feel free to use the following contact numbers of City of Cape Town:

Catchment, Stormwater & River Management: Tel: 021 400 1205
Environmental Resource Management: Tel: 021 710 8000

Working for Wetlands:
Tel: 021 799 8848 / 8736

Department of Water Affairs & Forestry:
Working for Water: Tel 021 976 8136

Produced in collaboration with The Sandriver Catchment Forum.

May 2009


Top of page  Back  Home