When in Drought: Adaptations and Water Conservation among Western Cape Residents During the 2016-2018 Drought
HSRC Seminar series
Date: 13 August 2019
Time: 12h30 - 14:00
Venues in Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town (Videoconferencing facilities: see below)
Panel: Dr Stephen Rule, Dr Wilfred Lunga, Dr Saahier Parker & Yamkela Majikijela, Social Policy, Knowledge Mobilisation, and Impact Assessment (SoKIA) research programme, HSRC
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Water supply dam levels for the City of Cape Town dropped to their lowest levels in 100 years of recorded history in January 2018. Owing to the city’s prominence as an international tourist destination, much media attention focused on the impending drought disaster (Ziervogel, 2019). Initial warnings and alerts issued by the city authorities did not result in significant changes to household and commercial water consumption patterns. A more robust approach was therefore adopted, whereby it was declared that at prevailing consumption rates, supply would be depleted by the 16th April 2018, a day that was designated as ‘Day Zero’. A restriction to 50 litres of water for all purposes per person per day was imposed as a means of drastically reducing domestic consumption. Consumers did then realise the severity of situation, and the use of water declined dramatically.
A community and organisational survey was conducted early in 2019 across several neighbourhoods in Cape Town and two small towns in the Western Cape hinterland to elucidate and assess the adaptations and water conservation methodologies and strategies that were implemented. It emerged that awareness of the drought and the officially imposed water restrictions was high, but that a significant proportion of respondents thought that official communications and strategic decisions about the management of the drought could have been more effective and better managed. In relation to experience in other cities (Friedler, 2008; Campisano & Modica, 2010; Birkmann et al, 2010; Ziervogel, 2019.), the surveyed households and businesses reported drastic reduction of their water consumption. This was achieved by less washing of clothes, less showering, and the recycling of grey water for toilet flushing and garden watering. A range of suggestions was made about the management of future droughts. These included better maintenance of existing water storage infrastructure, and the establishment of new capacity; earlier and more transparent communication about the severity of the drought and the rationale for restrictions on water consumption; and subsidisation of the installation of storage tanks and boreholes
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