Cape Town has a plan to manage its water. But there are big gaps
Uncertainty of future trends in climate, economic activities, population growth, water demand and infrastructure investment needs were overlooked.
The City of Cape Town – and southwest Africa more generally – experienced its worst drought on record between 2015 and 2018. With fresh rains as well as careful water management, the city has now emerged from this environmental and economic emergency.
The final consequences of the drought might never be known for certain. This is because the effects on groundwater depletion or biodiversity loss may not appear until years after the event. But the economic impact of the drought is more easily identified. Over 30 000 jobs have been lost in the agricultural sector in the Western Cape region, caused by a 20% decrease in agricultural production.
There are other consequences too, such as the impact on the city’s international reputation, as well as residents’ and policymakers’ experiences of water restrictions and the threat of “Day Zero”.
So what are the lessons learnt?
The City of Cape Town has recently released a draft strategy for water supply and management which aims to ensure safe access to water and sanitation for all the city’s residents, efficient water use, diversified water sources and shared costs and benefits by 2040. This strategy has been strongly informed by events of the past three years and is a bold statement of intent. As such, it sets a benchmark for sustainable development in the city and the wider region. The strategy is aimed at increasing usable water availability and managing that water better. But some elements are missing…
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