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This article explores responses to one type of climate risk, severe water scarcity, during Cape Town's drought from 2016 to mid-2018. Advancing our understanding of how societies can cope and develop despite disruptions, it considers how selected pathways shaped noteworthy response diversity to mitigate the impact and potential harms associated with the unprecedented drought. Enhancing capacity through off-grid alternatives, private responses led to the emergence of innovative arrangements, at extraordinary scales, to adaptively secure variants of household level water access and reserves while expanding general reserve margins. Unintended consequences of nascent off-grid capacity arrangements precipitated transformations and accommodation challenges to public governance systems. We relate these observations to emerging trends in 'off-grid' provision of goods by non-state actors, seen in other fields, a phenomenon we call 'climate gating'. These observations highlight what is and what is not potentially safeguarded by such decentralised and polycentric responses.
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Climate Risk Management
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Climate gating: A case study of emerging responses to
Anthropocene Risks
Nicholas Philip Simpson
, Cliord D. Shearing
, Benoit Dupont
Global Risk Governance Programme, Department of Public Law, University of Cape Town, South Africa
International Centre for Comparative Criminology, Université de Montréal, Canada
Climate gating
Water security
Reserve capacity
This article explores responses to one type of climate risk, severe water scarcity, during Cape
Towns drought from 2016 to mid-2018. Advancing our understanding of how societies can cope
and develop despite disruptions, it considers how selected pathways shaped noteworthy response
diversity to mitigate the impact and potential harms associated with the unprecedented drought.
Enhancing capacity through o-grid alternatives, private responses led to the emergence of in-
novative arrangements, at extraordinary scales, to adaptively secure variants of household level
water access and reserves while expanding general reserve margins. Unintended consequences of
nascent o-grid capacity arrangements precipitated transformations and accommodation chal-
lenges to public governance systems. We relate these observations to emerging trends in o-grid
provision of goods by non-state actors, seen in other elds, a phenomenon we call climate
gating. These observations highlight what is and what is not potentially safeguarded by such
decentralised and polycentric responses.
1. Introduction
We live in an age of uncertaintyacross multiple spheres (OMalley, 2003). One such sphere is the arena of shifting earth systems,
that the term Anthropocene(Crutzen and Stoermer, 2000) recognises (for examples of critical discussion of this term see, Harrington
and Shearing, 2017; Subramanian, 2019). Considerable research has taken place across a variety of domains for example, insurance
and the nancial industries (Clarvis et al., 2015), energy transition and transitions generally (Geels and Raven, 2006; Grey and
Sado, 2007), that explore variations in responses to shifts in earth systems. The threat of such changes to a sustainable future has led
scholars to pay increasing attention to novel kinds of risks, hazards and harms. Woodward (2019) has recently cautioned that the
most threatening of such disruptions are those of low predictability, high scale, speed and irreversibility. With varying degrees of
expression, the Cape Town drought exhibited all these characteristics as public and private actors grappled with reliability of rainfall
forecasts and water supply models, acted at unprecedented scales and speeds in endeavours to explore and bring online alternative
supply sources, all of which amounted to establish novel governance arrangements around water and future corrigibility.
Received 12 April 2019; Received in revised form 22 July 2019; Accepted 6 August 2019
Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: (N.P. Simpson), (C.D. Shearing), (B. Dupont).
Present address: Global Risk Governance Programme, Department of Public Law, Middle Campus, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7708
Western Cape, South Africa.
Climate Risk Management 26 (2019) 100196
Available online 08 August 2019
2212-0963/ © 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
These shifts in risk governance are rewriting established harmscapes(Berg and Shearing, 2018), and approaches to security. By
harmscapeswe reference the broad range of unsecured harms posed by heightened risks and hazards associated with an altered
earth. This is similar to existing notions of riskscapes(Morello-Frosch et al., 2001)orhazardscapes(Mustafa, 2005), but includes a
broader view of exposure to unprecedented harms associated with major social, economic, environmental or technological disrup-
tion. For example, concerning anticipated health harms scholars have associated with Anthropocene changes, Whitmee et al. (2015,
p. 1974) highlight, environmental threats to human health and human civilisation will be characterised by surprise and un-
certainty, as society we face clear and potent dangers that require urgent and transformative actions to protect present and future
generations. The uncertainties associated with these harmscapes have presented signicant challenges, to both professionals and
laypersons, seeking to manage or provide safeguards for these developments, such as climate variability, so as to promote en-
vironmental securities. By security actors we reference those who manage or respond to security issues, broadly conceptualised
(Dupont, 2017; Ostrom, 2010), rather than simply those professionals with a security label (Pretorius, 2018). Any actors who un-
dertake and select particular pathways to secure their interests against such harms are therefore included in the scope of security
actors. This opens up consideration of decentralised, private and polycentric nodes and actions in the name of governance (Ostrom,
2010), security (Berg and Shearing, 2008), and climate risk governance in particular (Vob and Schroth, 2019).
Existing approaches to water security generally converge on dening it in terms of abundance or scarcity (Jepson et al., 2017),
with frameworks aiming to understand physical resource availability, infrastructure and economic choices (Srinivasan et al., 2017),
and shaped by interacting domains of concern such as, social, demographic, economic, technological, ecological, and governance
(Romero-Lankao and Gnatz, 2016). Although water security and resilience literatures are dominated by a focus on public and/or
utility scale provision of water for general distribution (Yazdani et al., 2011; Ziervogel et al., 2010), in departure from a centralised
focus, it is this issue of securing private and household level supply, that we explore via an analysis of Cape Towns response to a
recent drought that seriously undermined the Citys water security. In further departure from uses of resilience as a means of
understanding and framing both public and private responses to disruption and scarcity, common to framings and analyses of the
drought (for some examples, De Lille, 2017a; Luker and Harris, 2018; Rodina, 2019; Simpson et al., 2019b), this study concentrates
on what is being done to secure household level water supply.
We explore how private actions responded to disruption within the constraints of shock, in particular we consider the role
backburnertechnologies (Braithwaite and Drahos, 2000) played, and are playing, in establishing o-grid nodes of security. These
actions have underscored choices by private entities to moderate their dependence on the public system and its infrastructure
(Simpson, 2019). For many residents, this has amounted to a partial, selective or wholesale detachment from the public water grid,
in pursuit of water security (Simpson et al., 2019b). This development, observable in both business and households across the city,
might be thought of as climate gating, a term that locates this trend within the context of a wider phenomena of decentralised
service delivery involving private auspices and providers (Bayley and Shearing, 2001) such as gated communities’–an established
phenomenon within South Africa and elsewhere (Bislev, 2004; Blakely and Snyder, 1997; Shearing and Stenning, 1983). This de-
velopment is not dissimilar to a host of other private and decentralised actions in, for example, electricity (Jaglin, 2013; Van der
Heijden, 2013), education (Hursh, 2005; Zajda, 2006), and health (Chapman, 2014; Poirier et al., 2014) moves, where the states
ability to deliver key public goodshave been, and are being, supplemented and/or replaced (Dubé et al., 2014). As our case study
demonstrates these decentralisation, selective gating and o-gridding moves, particularly when linked, can have major implications
for disrupted centrally designed urban institutions, such as public water utilities.
We begin with a literature review of security in the Anthropocene under conditions of disruption and scarcity and we frame
household level responses to the drought from an emerging security perspective (Shearing, 2015). We then outline our methodology.
This is followed by a brief overview of the Cape Town drought, a presentation of ndings and our analysis of them. We conclude by
explicating what we have learned about the ways in which individuals are responding to an unanticipated and disruptive event. Here
we pay particular attention to the implications of our ndings for understandings of what eect these actions have highlighting the
emerging trend of climate gating.
2. New (in)securities
Bakker and Morinville (2013) have identied water governance as critical to water security, and to the long-term sustainability of
life on Earth. It is expected that evolving earth system changes will aect the frequencies and magnitudes of natural hazards, such as
hurricanes (Kossin, 2018), droughts, blizzards, oods and res (Wise et al., 2014). Traditional knowledge and governance paradigms,
such as the assumption of stationarity (Milly et al., 2008), are likely to have little eect in dealing with these new harms (Ogden et al.,
2013), highlighting the need for a greater understanding of the threats Anthropocene harmscapes pose to societies and how people
respond to them. Water scarcity is conceptualised here as one such harmscape; an insecurity that has to be overcome(Falkenmark,
2013, p. 1). Despite a proliferation of anticipatory toolkits for what to do (for some examples, The Rockefeller Foundation and ARUP,
2016; World Bank, 2018), and hypotheses of what might happen (Bai et al., 2016; Biermann et al., 2016; Dryzek, 2016; Steen et al.,
2018), there is a dearth of examples detailing the ways individuals perceive and respond to unprecedented disruptions attributed to
such events and what the consequences of such actions mean for those seeking to shape the ow of events. This article includes within
its domain of security,the very wide variety of activities and practices that are being carried out under the sign of security
(Valverde, 2014, p. 383). The case study described below, considers how a range of private actors responded to the disruption of their
water scarcity through creating local reserve capacity in the form of boreholes, well points and water tanks.
N.P. Simpson, et al. Climate Risk Management 26 (2019) 100196
3. Data collection and methodology
The research focussed on six main data sources, three providing quantitative data indicating consumption, water use and private
responses to the drought and three providing contextualization of the drought governance arrangements. In recognition of the
proliferation of rainwater harvesting technologies, unit sales data from South Africas largest rain water harvesting and storage tank
manufacturer and retailer were analysed. Although the ve principal tank retailers and manufacturers were contacted, only one
company shared their sales and market share data with us. The second data source relied on the City of Cape Towns reported changes
in number of households they dened as high consumptionhouseholds (CoCT, 2017). A third data source was changes in the
number of boreholes registered with the City (Jordan, 2019). A fourth data source was media reports a source that provided data on
response technologies, household strategies and shifting relationships between residents and the local municipality. Fifth, a review of
the City of Cape Towns drought policies and media releases January 2009 and June 2019, provided information on how the City
governs water supply and water distribution with particular emphasis on changes in taris, nes, consumption data and registration
of boreholes and well points. Sixth, publications exploring governance arrangements of the drought (for some examples, Booysen
et al., 2019; Enqvist and Ziervogel, 2019; Simpson et al., 2019a, 2019b; Ziervogel, 2019) were reviewed.
4. Results
4.1. The Cape Town drought
Between 2015 and 2018, the water catchment area, known as the Western Cape Water Supply System (WCWSS), suered its driest
three-year period since the 1930s (CoCT, 2018a). Historical consumption patterns indicated that Cape Town, a city of four million
people, would run out of water in early 2018 (CoCT, 2018a). Although there is a lack of denitive evidence linking this drought with
human induced climate variability, the unprecedented nature and eect of the drought on the citizens and government of Cape Town
(Simpson et al., 2019a), provides a useful case for considering the kinds of responses cities and their denizens may adopt, if the
anticipated eects of climate system changes are manifested in coming years (Allan et al., 2013).
We explore what private measures contributed to the remarkable reduction in Cape Towns consumption, from 1200 ML/day
(mega litres of water per day) in 2015, to 526 ML/day in mid-February 2018 a global record (Ziervogel, 2019)measures that were
prompted by predictions oered by the City of a rapidly approaching a point when Cape Town would run out of water (Visser, 2018).
This proved to be an alarming prospect to Capetonians who had long assumed that their municipality would provide for their water
security (Booysen et al., 2019)with this, a previously unthinkable possibility suddenly became thinkable.
As with so much else in South Africa, water usage in Cape Town was heavily skewed in favour of wealthier denizens with those
living in informal housing, conservatively estimated to be 20,5% of the population, using very little water in comparison with their
wealthier neighbours (Enqvist and Ziervogel, 2019). Further, about 10% of residents in Khayelitsha, one such informal settlement,
have neither access to running water nor any form of toilet (see Enqvist and Ziervogel, 2019 for detailed analysis of water inequalities
in Cape Town; and see Stats-SA, 2017 for information on well-known inequalities in South Africa). This meant that opportunities to
reduce water consumption from the municipal water grid rested with higher level consumers consumers who, because of their
previous high levels of consumption, found the quota of 50 L per person per day that the City had imposed particularly onerous. This
concern also extended to the prospect of having to line-up for water at water distribution points, for 25 L of water per person per day
that the City was planning to implement should Day Zeroarrive where most the citys residential suburbs (excluding informal
settlements) would be shut o(Ziervogel, 2019). A consequence of these concerns across a wide swath of Capetonians was that they
looked for alternative, ogrid, ways of meeting their water consumption requirements (CoCT, 2018a).
4.2. Rainwater harvesting tanks and groundwater access
Rain water harvesting and storage tanks (water tanks), private boreholes and grey water systems emerged as some of the most
prolic strategies for enhancing household level water supply, for those who could aord them. A commonly purchased 2500 L tank
costs roughly ZAR3000.00 (USD215.00), which is approximately half the total monthly income of the lowest income quintile of South
Africans (Stats-SA, 2017). A shallow well point (> 9m deep) and pump cost approximately ZAR10,000.00 (USD720.00), where as a
major borehole reaching down 80 m to more permanent water cost approximately ZAR140,000.00 (USD10,000.00). In addition to
the above technologies several larger companies commissioned private desalination plants which treat abstracted sea or groundwater
for their private use (McClelland, 2019; Pace, 2019). Fig. 1 graphically represents the uptake of vertical water tanks with capacity
between 1000 L and 20 000 L in Cape Town (National Sales & Marketing –“X Tanks, 2018)
Sales of water tanks did not change signicantly during the rst year of the drought, with sales of tanks remaining within their
previous ten-year average sales of 165 tanks per month (July 2013 August 2015). In the rst half of 2016, the drought was generally
considered to be a challenging but temporary anomaly in rainfall patterns (Wolski, 2017). This inaction reects condence in the
conventional supply system and the prevalence of a mentality that anticipated a return to normalrainfall and no need for sup-
plemental actions. Towards the end of 2016 there was an increase in sales, with 535 tanks sold in September (324% increase in sales
compared with the monthly average), as early adopters began exploring alternative household level water security options.
X Tanksis an anonymizing pseudonym.
N.P. Simpson, et al. Climate Risk Management 26 (2019) 100196
Fig. 1 illustrates how a third consecutive year of water scarcity triggered a cascading increase in tank sales, a substantive shift
towards water tanks as sales rose to an initial peak of 2609 tanks sold in March 2017. This spike marks the 21st month of the drought.
General awareness (public and private) of the severity of the drought as a multi-year phenomenon and the governments inability to
secure supply increased at this stage (De Lille, 2017b). There was a dip in sales through the rst few (traditional) winter rainfall
months of 2017 indicating the initial rainfall events had an impact on consumer behaviour. However, growing awareness of the worst
rainfall season on record (Wolski et al., 2017), correlated with a dramatic increase in tank units sales during the second half of 2017.
The rapid increase in sales from July 2017 onwards, tracks the adoption of rain water harvesting tanks as a private and household, an
o-grid water securing strategy 49,805 tanks were sold by X Tanksbetween December 2016 and February 2018. X Tanksmarket
intelligence reports suggest that in February, when they sold 8010 units, they estimate over 20,000 tanks were sold in the Cape Town
(interview, National Sales & Marketing –“X Tanks, 2018). These trends indicate an unprecedented demand for tanks which, over
that period, was limited by availability (Palm, 2018).
In December 2016, 117,000 households were identied by the CoCT as using more than 20,000 L of municipal water per month
(CoCT, 2017). Punitive demand management reached its height in the February 2018 which included a household allocation of
6000 L of water per month and substantial nes for those exceeding this amount.
By February 2018, through various demand
management means, the number of 20,000 L plus households had been reduced to 12,300 (CoCT, 2018b). Over this 14-month period,
105,000 high consumptionhouseholds curtailed their municipal water use (CoCT, 2018b), many of these households are likely to
have installed water tanks to mitigate their consumption (see, Brick et al., 2018). Although 100,000 households are a small pro-
portion of a total city of four million residents, their impact on total consumption was signicant. Their o-gridding actions
amounted to a shock within a shockthat threatened to undermine the Citys revenue and tarimodels, capital available for
augmentation plans, and, signicantly, the Citys ability to cross-subsidize the approximately one million residents who do not pay
for water (Simpson et al., 2019b).
Fig. 1 also indicates that in 2016 there were 1500 registered boreholes and wells in Cape Town, by April 2019, over 26,000 had
been registered (Jordan, 2019). This indicates an unprecedented adoption of groundwater as a source of private water supply. These
Fig. 1. Rainwater harvesting tank sales data, number of registered boreholes and well points, and reduction in number of households consuming
more than 20,000L per month, Cape Town, Sept 2016-April 2019 (CoCT, 2018b; Jordan, 2019; National Sales & Marketing –“X Tanks, 2018).
R1,536 (US$130) for consumption of 20,000 L, up to R20,000 (US$1,745) ne for 50,000 L per month.
N.P. Simpson, et al. Climate Risk Management 26 (2019) 100196
developments prompted the CoCT to require all residents to register their boreholes (Jordan, 2019), ostensibly to provide the local
government with information about the scale of this shift and its potential impact on groundwater. The conditions which drove
selection and retention of rainwater harvesting tanks, indicate a likelihood that those utilising o-grid solutions are likely to continue
to use these alternatives as a source of water. This has signicant potential implications for the tax base of the CoCT, aecting
operating and capital expenditure budgets and particularly the cross-subsidization of water revenues for poorer areas (Simpson et al.,
4.3. Climate gating and a new governance assemblage
The inability of the local government to maintain sucient water ows during the Cape Town drought presented an un-
precedented disruption to water access and management. An emerging response to disruptions of ows of water (and electricity)
globally has given rise to a variety of o-gridsupply arrangements as an alternative to state provision (Simpson, 2019). In Cape
Town for example, where both water and electricity disruptions have occurred, a response by many citizens and organisations has
been to access alternative sources of supply and to move opublic grids either partially, or completely to ensure continuity of
their supply (Madonsela et al., 2019). These responses, Puerto Rico provides but one of many extended examples, are producing
concerning resource inequalities and recovery challenges (Simpson, 2019).
In response to the Cape Town drought these private actions supplemented an anticipated lack in the public provision of water and
introduced novel, decentralised water supply alternatives that reshaped the established water system. The case highlights the role
that back-burner technologies can play in disrupting public systems of supply. Together, access to groundwater and water tanks that
harvested water from hardened surfaces within CoCT, provide a dispersed reserve capacity. The eect of these actions on water
governance and infrastructures went beyond resourcefulness of consumers to include transformative characteristics, creating path-
ways that did not exist previously pathways that were replicated at unprecedented rates and scales. It is to these pathways that we
now turn.
Focusing on the kinds of pathways individuals select claries how observable shifts in behaviour and technological selection for
adaptation under disruptive conditions illuminates perceived insecurities brought about by shocks. Water tanks, boreholes and well
points signal resourcefulness and exibility in supply. Yet there are limits to the scalable impact of private resourcefulness, especially
in unequal societies. Spatially entrenched inequalities limit uptake of these capacities to an auent constituency who were able to
move beyond the water resources that the municipality was making available through its established water distribution systems.
These developments have led to the creation of a new water infrastructure that has fundamentally transformed the way in which
water within Cape Town is harvested and distributed. Fig. 2 charts these developments.
Fig. 2 distinguishes between conventional (centralised) distribution grids and the new assemblage where key public goods, such
as water, are also secured through private actions. Two key characteristics of the emergence of the new governance assemblage are
Fig. 2. Water Governance Chart.
N.P. Simpson, et al. Climate Risk Management 26 (2019) 100196
highlighted in this gure through steps 3 and 4 of the diagram. Step 3 outlines the impact of private actions on the local municipality,
before the local government was able to recognise the eect of their actions on the conventional governance arrangement, and while
it was itself attempting to respond to the drought through its conventional frame and infrastructures. As less water was consumed the
citys budget, in part dependent on revenues generated through water sales, was adversely aected. Simpson et al. (2019b) have
described the eect this had on municipal nances and the threat it poses to cross subsidisation and the sustainability of the public
entitysnance model. The shock within a shockthey observe has implication for planning, but also the majority of Cape Towns
population who remain dependent on the grid. This new arrangement further complicates existing inequalities in water access in the
city and curtailed the Citys ability to deal with such stressors. Nonetheless, recognising the Citys mandate to deliver potable drinking
water to the city, in addition to addressing supply augmentation concerns (CoCT, 2019a), the local municipalitys notable response
has been to regulate.
Step 4 of Fig. 2 highlights regulatory and policy measures taken by the city to accommodate private and o-grid activities. In its
communications to make people aware of the 2010 Water By-law, and its 2018 Amendment, the CoCT requires registration of
boreholes and well points, for environmental research and monitoring purposes only and not for billing(CoCT, 2019b, p. 1). This
stance indicates an acceptance by the City of these emerging water governance arrangements. However, acceptance should not be
mistaken for resignation. The City has claried its stance as the appropriate and principal water distributor within Cape Town as a
record of the amount of water usedmust be kept and no alternative water source can be used for drinking, cooking (and food
preparation) or ablution (body washing), due to potential health risksmaking the Citys water the only lawful drinking water source;
unless the entity has a water intermediarylicence (CoCT, 2019c, p. 7).
Further, residents were informed that they needed to give the City two weeksnotice before planning to sink a borehole, well or
well point (CoCT, 2019c, p. 8). By June 2019, Cape Town had passed nine new water regulations. The specicity of this commu-
nication programme, outlining regulatory requirements that position and curtail the potential reach of o-grid actions, highlight the
importance the CoCT has placed on being able to both accommodate and manage these emerging water harvesting and distribution
arrangements as the City committed itself to promote the responsible use of rainwater, grey-water and groundwater from private
borehole and well points for non-drinking purposes(CoCT, 2019d, p. 12). In conrmation of the stance that all drinking water
should come from the central grid and should recognise the imperative of keeping residents connected, in the 20192020 General
TariPolicy the City has included an availabilitycharge for all servicedproperties (CoCT, 2019e, p. 40).
Such regulatory constraints and provisions placed on o-gridding entities are seen by the City as accommodation of what they
term a whole-of-societyapproach to a water resilient city(CoCT, 2019d, p. 29), which will depend on the actions of all people
and institutions living in the city(CoCT, 2019d, p. i). This is a marked transition away from the governance arrangements of a
traditional centralised system. Conventional municipal reticulations systems map well with centralised governance and planning with
legibility, security and risk all calculated by water ocials and within a stable governance and climatic system. Within such ar-
rangements, citizens entrusted public or utility scale entities with securing adequate quality and quantity of essential goods. Together
with a breakdown of trust (Ziervogel, 2019), material decentralization and the associated security provided by o-gridding, in
response to the drought, has disrupted Cape Towns established water reticulation system which remains committed to prioritise bulk
infrastructure(CoCT, 2018a).
How the CoCT responds from here, will continue to shape the ow of water, as well as what role they might play in enhancing
Cape Towns general resilience to climate related shocks. Fig. 2 suggests private climate gating activities are part of, not separate
from, an emerging water governance assemblage where decentralised arrangements overlap with the actions of local government. If
this gatingarrangement tracks what has emerged elsewhere for example in education (Holley and Shearing, 2017), health (Hein
et al., 2010) and policing (Dupont, 2017; Grabosky, 2007)it could signal a more permanent shift towards a dual system in which
the auent become self-providers of club goods(Hope, 2000) used to supplement or replace public provision (Bislev, 2004).
Shopping malls, often associated with residential housing and oce space, provide ubiquitous examples. In many northern hemi-
sphere cities, these gated spaces constitute eco-islandswith temperate climates that shield those who have access to them from the
elements’–snow, rain and the like and provide their populations with carefully controlled temperatures. The same applies in areas,
such as the Middle East, where outside heat often exceeds the temperature that humans can tolerate for survival. Emerging across the
globe are state of the art facilities like the Biodome Oce within Amazon's Seattle Spheres (Wall Street Journal, 2019), the new
indoor ecological complex at Singapore's Changi Airport (Kupelian and Narishkin, 2019), DubaisSustainable City(Diamond
Developers, 2019), and South AfricasSteyn City(Steyn City Properties, 2019), giving contemporary expression to what were once
considered curious experimentation in the Eden Project (The Eden Project, 2019).
Likewise, scholars are exploring what new strategies best suit the needs of smart, integrated and decentralised systems that might
mainstream or entrench such moves (de Graaf, 2019). These spaces, whose gateslter access, constitute habitable eco-islands not
unlike the earth-like islands that Elon Musk has envisaged on Mars (Petranek, 2015), as an outpost for a handful of humans. If the
planetary boundariesthat Rockström and colleagues have identied continue to be breached (Rockström et al., 2009; Steen et al.,
2018), and large sections perhaps all of Earth become uninhabitable to humans and many other species (Barnosky et al., 2011),
perhaps there will be no need to travel to Mars. Eco-islands, that operate within the required thresholds for human comfort and
productivity may well be emerging on planet Earth, even while fears of a climate apartheidand its associated unsecured harmscapes
are faced by large cohorts of people in inequitable societies across the globe (Brisman et al., 2018, p. 301). Holocene climate pods’–
such as refugecities (Pierre-Louis, 2019) emerging within increasingly hostile Anthropocene climatic conditions may well extend
existing forms of gatingand antecedent premium ecological enclaves(Hodson and Marvin, 2010) in concert with anticipated risk
megatrends facing cities (Hardy and Hauer, 2018; Laville, 2019). Climate gatingin response to shifting climatic regimes has arrived
and is being actively pursued. Whether and how these Holocene-like islands will emerge, whether it will be possible to maintain them
N.P. Simpson, et al. Climate Risk Management 26 (2019) 100196
and who will have access will become known as the Anthropocene Century unfolds.
5. Conclusion
Using a broadly dened notion of security, this article has provided a novel approach to understanding how societies respond to
and cope with major climatic disruption. It has done so through the lens of shifts in water harvesting and distribution within the CoCT
as its citizens have sought to enhance their water security. It has proposed the idea of climate gatingas an overarching term for the
kinds of coupled o-gridding and gating responses observed in Cape Town. This extends existing analyses of how local experi-
mentation under conditions of the disruption of essential services can reshape established governance assemblages.
A question that arises is how public decision making can, and should, respond to the shifts in governance arrangements we have
identied. These shifts are challenging established conceptions of how the provision of goods such as water can, and should be
provided, as well as established arrangements for doing so. Answering this question will require comparative analyses across geo-
graphic, temporal and political contexts.
Declaration of Competing Interest
The authors declare that they have no known competing nancial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to
inuence the work reported in this paper.
This research was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada [Grant Number: 957376, 2018].
Data set supporting Fig. 1: Rainwater harvesting tank sales data, number of registered boreholes and well points, and reduction in
number of households consuming more than 20,000L per month, Cape Town, Sept 2016-April 2019 (CoCT, 2018b; Jordan, 2019;
National Sales & Marketing –“X Tanks, 2018).
Unit Sales (No. tanks sold over
1000 L capacity)
X Tanks Estimated
Market Share
Estimated Total Industry
Tank Sales
Number of households consuming over
20,000 L per month
Registered boreholes
and wells
Dec-15 235 25% 940
Jan-16 295 25% 1180
Feb-16 387 25% 1548
Mar-16 363 25% 1452
Apr-16 463 25% 1852
May-16 344 25% 1376
Jun-16 357 30% 1190
Jul-16 277 30% 923
Aug-16 373 30% 1243
Sep-16 535 30% 1783 1500
Oct-16 495 30% 1650
Nov-16 829 30% 2763
Dec-16 1132 35% 3234 117,000
Jan-17 791 35% 2260
Feb-17 1706 35% 4874
Mar-17 2609 35% 7454
Apr-17 1604 35% 4583
May-17 1538 35% 4394
Jun-17 2697 35% 7706
Jul-17 2677 35% 7649
Aug-17 3183 35% 9094
Sep-17 4030 40% 10,075
Oct-17 5149 40% 12,873
Nov-17 6037 40% 15,093
Dec-17 4329 40% 10,823
Jan-18 4313 40% 10,783
Feb-18 8010 40% 20,025 12,300
Apr-19 26,000
N.P. Simpson, et al. Climate Risk Management 26 (2019) 100196
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... These 'climate gating' actions, such as drilling boreholes, secured water access for high-income households and companies, but excluded a large proportion of Cape Town's population who could not afford such private technologies (Simpson et al., 2019a;Simpson et al., 2020b). These responses were unanticipated by the city administration and compounded fiscal challenges faced by the municipality which could no longer use revenues from high-consumption households to cross-subsidise water for low-income households (Simpson et al., 2020a). ...
... These responses were unanticipated by the city administration and compounded fiscal challenges faced by the municipality which could no longer use revenues from high-consumption households to cross-subsidise water for low-income households (Simpson et al., 2020a). This shift threatened to undermine the sustainability of the municipal fiscus and general water access ( Box 9.8; Simpson et al., 2019a;Simpson et al., 2020a). In order to recover losses, municipal water tariffs for consumers were raised by 26% in 2018 (Muller, 2018;Simpson et al., 2019a). ...
... This shift threatened to undermine the sustainability of the municipal fiscus and general water access ( Box 9.8; Simpson et al., 2019a;Simpson et al., 2020a). In order to recover losses, municipal water tariffs for consumers were raised by 26% in 2018 (Muller, 2018;Simpson et al., 2019a). In addition to a decline in tourism, median estimations of the overall economic impact of the drought indicate loss of 27.6 billion South African Rand (USD 1.7 billion) translating into 64,810 job losses in the Western Cape, with Cape Town accounting for approximately half of those job losses (DEDAT, 2018). ...
... Malpass et al. 2007;Lyon 2014;Discetti 2020), we aim to link this research to the much broader and still growing body of literature on urban politics of climate change (e.g. Bansard et al. 2017;Simpson et al. 2019;Bulkeley 2021). At the same time, by bringing together research on urban governance and city networks, we provide a qualitative analysis that systematically compares two networks in the agri-food sector. ...
... Scholars have documented the emergence of these diverse networks since the 1990s, especially in the context of climate change. Impressive networks in this field are, for example, the C40 network, which consists of 96 cities that produce 25% of global GDP, and the Global Covenant of Mayors, that engages over 9000 cities, representing nearly 800 million people or 10% of the global population (Bansard et al. 2017;Simpson et al. 2019;Nguyen et al. 2020). Studies have shown that local governments' action is driven by cities' need to reconfigure their infrastructure in the wake of climate change, to control carbon emission, and especially in the agri-food sector, by political claims in opposition to the dominant national interests (Moragues-Faus and Sonnino 2019; Bulkeley 2021). ...
... With regard to urban climate actions, there is systematic analysis of the emergence of 'climate gating', where the development of off-grid, decentralized water and energy infrastructure allows those who can afford it to secure ecological and material privileges (e.g. Simpson et al. 2019). Curtis (2016) argues that states increasingly use global cities to secure the capitalist order, while ultimately reproducing inherent asymmetries (see also Sassen 2016). ...
Full-text available
Cities and local governments loom large on the sustainability agenda. Networks such as Fair Trade Towns International (FTT) and the Organic Cities Network aim to bring about global policy change from below. Given the new enthusiasm for local approaches, it seems relevant to ask to what extent local groups exercise power and in what form. City networks present their members as “ethical places” exercising power with , rather than power over others. The article provides an empirical analysis of the power of FTT and Organic Cities in Germany. In both cases, we found cities that are eager to emphasize their inclusive potential. Their willingness to compromise is demonstrated most illustratively by the fact that several cities are members of both networks: While the FTT campaign aims to address problems of international trade but does not abandon it, Organic Cities advocate for a new localism based on food supply from farmers in the same region. In both cases, city networks use their purchasing power to increase the share of certified products. By doing so, the city networks reproduce privileged positions of consumers benefitting from the global capitalist order ( power over ). However, our analysis revealed that networks also make citizens reflect upon agri-food challenges and allow developing alternatives for more sustainable systems ( power with ).
... These 'climate gating' actions, such as drilling boreholes, secured water access for high-income households and companies, but excluded a large proportion of Cape Town's population who could not afford such private technologies (Simpson et al., 2019a;Simpson et al., 2020b). These responses were unanticipated by the city administration and compounded fiscal challenges faced by the municipality which could no longer use revenues from high-consumption households to cross-subsidise water for low-income households (Simpson et al., 2020a). ...
... These responses were unanticipated by the city administration and compounded fiscal challenges faced by the municipality which could no longer use revenues from high-consumption households to cross-subsidise water for low-income households (Simpson et al., 2020a). This shift threatened to undermine the sustainability of the municipal fiscus and general water access ( Box 9.8; Simpson et al., 2019a;Simpson et al., 2020a). In order to recover losses, municipal water tariffs for consumers were raised by 26% in 2018 (Muller, 2018;Simpson et al., 2019a). ...
... This shift threatened to undermine the sustainability of the municipal fiscus and general water access ( Box 9.8; Simpson et al., 2019a;Simpson et al., 2020a). In order to recover losses, municipal water tariffs for consumers were raised by 26% in 2018 (Muller, 2018;Simpson et al., 2019a). In addition to a decline in tourism, median estimations of the overall economic impact of the drought indicate loss of 27.6 billion South African Rand (USD 1.7 billion) translating into 64,810 job losses in the Western Cape, with Cape Town accounting for approximately half of those job losses (DEDAT, 2018). ...
Full-text available
Birkmann, J., E. Liwenga, R. Pandey, E. Boyd, R. Djalante, F. Gemenne, W. Leal Filho, P.F. Pinho, L. Stringer, and D. Wrathall, et al. 2022. Poverty, Livelihoods and Sustainable Development. In: Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, M. Tignor, E.S. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Craig, S. Langsdorf, S. Löschke, V. Möller, A. Okem, B. Rama (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In Press.
... larger or indigent households typically involve additional bureaucratic obstacles to obtain the same services as others (Yates and Harris 2018). In more affluent areas, households are often at or below the 'standard' size of four people, making it easier to comply with restrictions-especially since many can afford off-grid solutions including rainwater tanks and boreholes (Simpson et al. 2019a;Ouweneel et al. 2020). Policies designed only to cater for such households risk being deemed unfair and punitive towards those who live in low-income, crowded or informal settlements. ...
... While raising tariffs can help reduce water use even among lowincome households that already have low water demands, such measures put a disproportional pressure on the poorest to bear the burden of water conservation-either using less water than wealthier neighbours, or incurring higher water bills (Ouweneel et al. 2020). Meanwhile, wealthier households can more easily avoid this by investing in water-saving technology (Simpson et al. 2019a). ...
Full-text available
Fair allocation of diminishing natural resources is increasingly central to sustainability. This includes the allocation of costs related to providing access, such as dams, pipes and pumps delivering clean water. Water tariffs are often designed to both recover these costs, meet social needs of water services to the poor, and incentivise conservation in dry times. However, strained public finances, prolonged droughts and economic inequality can undermine these goals and force prioritisations that many see as unfair. This happened in Cape Town, South Africa, during its 2015–2018 water crisis. This study investigates what residents in three different socioeconomic contexts view as fair water tariffs 1 year after the crisis. Using Q method, we describe five distinct perspectives on fairness: ‘the Insurer’, ‘the Individualist’, ’the Bureaucrat’, ‘the Humanitarian’, and ‘the Prepper’. These, we argue, can help distinguish between different ideas of what fairness implies, and what is required to promote it. We exemplify this by examining how viewpoints might have been shaped by specific communities’ experiences during and after the apartheid state’s discriminatory segregation policies. Using distributive, procedural and interactional interpretations of fairness, we discuss how the complex layers of poverty, inequality, mistrust, privilege and discrimination might produce different experiences and ideas of who should pay for and benefit from water services. Using these insights, we also reflect on the merits of tariffs that emphasise cost recovery and resource conservation over social needs, and the risks this poses for growing informal settlements in climate-stressed cities of the global South. Graphical abstract Using Q method, we identified five distinct perspectives with different views on what constitutes a fair water tariff.
... When considering autonomous responses to water scarcity, it is important to consider the range of both public and private actors and their variable adaptive capacities. Responses to the Cape Town drought (2015-2018) led to unprecedented uptake of greywater systems, rainwater harvesting tanks and boreholes to secure residents' water requirements (Simpson et al., 2019a;Simpson et al., 2020a). These offgrid and autonomous strategies to secure household-level water supply transformed many water-access arrangements and the associated governance and tariff structure, undermining the municipality's financial sustainability (Ouweneel et al., 2020;Simpson et al., 2019c). ...
... The fight against future water scarcity in Africa will likely see further contestation between models of public and private water delivery. For those technologies which allow for decentralization and offgrid responses to water scarcity, the partial and gated nature of elite responses are likely to challenge centralized water distribution and governance arrangements (Simpson et al., 2019a). While municipalities or utilities need to recognise autonomous actors and their responses in the fight against water scarcity, planned responses need to accommodate and coordinate with their efforts in order to appropriately align private water supplier capacities with broader societal needs (Leal Filho et al., 2019). ...
Water scarcity is a global challenge, yet existing responses are failing to cope with current shocks and stressors, including those attributable to climate change. In sub-Saharan Africa, the impacts of water scarcity threaten livelihoods and wellbeing across the continent and are driving a broad range of adaptive responses. This paper describes trends of water scarcity for Africa and outlines climate impacts on key water-related sectors on food systems, cities, livelihoods and wellbeing, conflict and security, economies, and ecosystems. It then uses systematic review methods, including the Global Adaptation Mapping Initiative, to analyse 240 articles and identify adaptation characteristics of planned and autonomous responses to water scarcity across Africa. The most common impact drivers responded to are drought and participation variability. The most frequently identified actors responding to water scarcity include individuals or households (32%), local government (15%) and national government (15%), while the most common types of response are behavioural and cultural (30%), technological and infrastructural (27%), ecosystem-based (25%) and institutional (18%). Most planned responses target low-income communities (31%), women (20%), and indigenous communities (13%), but very few studies target migrants, ethnic minorities or those living with disabilities. There is a lack of coordination of planned adaptation at scale across all relevant sectors and regions, and lack of legal and institutional frameworks for their operation. Most responses to water scarcity are coping and autonomous responses that showed only minor adjustments to business-as-usual water practices, suggesting limited adaptation depth. Maladaptation is associated with one or more dimension of responses in almost 20% of articles. Coordinating institutional responses, carefully planned technologies, planning for projected climate risks including extension of climate services and increased climate change literacy, and integrating indigenous knowledge will help to address identified challenges of water scarcity towards more adaptive responses across Africa.
... For example, when dealing with the effects of climate change, wealthy individuals are able to cool their own houses, protect themselves against flooding, and preferentially secure water resources during drought events. 30,31 Such actions might come at the expense of mitigating environmental damage and, if they hamper resilience for others, also raise questions around environmental justice. 32 Changes to selfidentity and values towards the environment can also cascade up to influence the social and economic institutions that have strong influence over maintaining a safe planetary operating space. ...
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A safe and just operating space for socioecological systems is a powerful bridging concept in sustainability science. It integrates biophysical earth-system tipping points (ie, thresholds at which small changes can lead to amplifying effects) with social science considerations of distributional equity and justice. Often neglected, however, are the multiple feedback loops between self-identity and planetary boundaries. Environmental degradation can reduce self-identification with nature, leading to decreased pro-environmental behaviours and decreased cooperation with out-groups, further increasing the likelihood of transgressing planetary boundaries. This vicious cycle competes with a virtuous one, where improving environmental quality enhances the integration of nature into self-identity and improves health, thereby facilitating prosocial and pro-environmental behaviour. These behavioural changes can also cascade up to influence social and economic institutions. Given a possible minimum degree of individual self-care to maintain health and prosperity, there would seem to exist an analogous safe and just operating space for self-identity, for which system stewardship for planetary health is crucial.
... From this cluster, we see how local and international scholars investigate how communities' efforts and changes in livelihood can display different degrees of resilience by employing different strategies. African communities are resilient to climate change through their attitudinal shifts and local technology innovations to better curb the impacts of climate change (Simpson et al., 2019). Communities build on their perceptions about past practices, skills, and knowledge to build adaptive capacity and resilience to suit their current life (Gandure et al., 2013;Perez et al., 2015;Elum et al., 2017;Talanow et al., 2021). ...
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Research on climate change has increased significantly since the 1970s. There has also been a particular focus on Africa, given its vulnerability to climate change impacts and its urbanization trends that may have massive implications for climate change adaptation and mitigation. Despite the wealth of publications on climate change in Africa, there is a lack of review studies that highlight the overall research landscape. If this status of climate research is clarified, African countries can better deal with climate change. Hence, this paper aims to improve our understanding of the status and trends of research on climate change adaptation and mitigation in Africa. Our review, straddling from 1990 to late 2021, recognizes the foundations that underpin climate change adaptation and mitigation literature. Based on keywords associated with Africa’s climate change adaptation and mitigation, we undertook bibliometric research by collecting 3,316 related SCI/SSCI articles. In addition, we provided a thematic evolution over three decades, compartmentalized into four sub-periods (1990–2007; 2008–2014; 2015–2019; 2020–2021). Priority research topics and themes have been dynamic over time, with some core concepts receiving more attention (vulnerability, food, water, and energy security). Although the number of published articles exhibited a rapidly growing trend, their distribution is extremely uneven. Articles were mainly published by institutions from certain parts of the continent, with the University of Cape Town, making the highest contribution. About 72% of the existing studies focused on climate change adaptation, while climate change mitigation was less represented with 22%. The results also showed that researchers have examined not all African countries. South Africa, Ethiopia, and Ghana are hot spots, while most countries are largely neglected. Africa and African countries need to improve their future research ability on climate change mitigation. Assessing climate change risks and measures in African countries should be prioritized.
... This focus on well-being is particularly important in highly diverse or inequitable contexts in which a multitude of social dynamics, cultures, gender norms, and environmental characteristics make experiences of water-related challenges difficult to measure in both a consistent and a meaningful way. In Cape Town, South Africa, a drought-induced water crisis that peaked in 2018 caused many such intersecting stressors to compound everyday water challenges, with starkly different impacts on residents' well-being (Enqvist and Ziervogel 2019, Simpson et al. 2019, Ziervogel 2019b. These stressors were rooted partly in climate change, but also in persistent challenges in service delivery, especially in lowincome areas where the unresolved legacy of race-based spatial inequality curtailed many households' ability to cope (Smith and Hanson 2003, Millington and Scheba 2021). ...
Interactions among social inequalities, environmental stressors, and shocks are illustrated through communities’ subjective experiences of water-related challenges and responses to crises. This situation is perhaps most visible in the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on marginalized communities where climate change and systemic inequities are already threatening access to water and sanitation. It is critical to integrate dimensions related to well-being into research about vulnerable communities’ capacities and strategies for coping and adapting to such crises. Here, we investigate water-related risks to health and well-being using a subjectivity lens, a particularly useful tool for understanding community-level resilience to lesser-known stressors and crisis impacts. To inform this study, we used households’ self-reported water issues in Cape Town, South Africa’s low-income areas from before the pandemic, in addition to community responses during the pandemic. The findings show how inadequate access to water and sanitation affects people’s health and well-being, both directly by exposure to wastewater and impaired hygiene, and indirectly by creating stress and social conflict, and undermining subsistence gardening and medical self-care. However, our study also illustrates how grassroots-led responses to the COVID-19 crisis address these vulnerabilities and identify priorities for managing water to support well-being. The results demonstrate two ways that subjective perceptions of well-being can help to promote resilience: first, by identifying stressors that undermine community well-being and adaptive capacity; and second, by voicing community experiences that can help to guide crisis responses and initiatives critical for adapting to social-ecological shocks. The results have important implications for enabling transformative change that aligns efforts to address issues linked to poverty and inequality with those seeking to respond to environmental emergencies.
... Many responses were motivated by the observed or predicted general impacts of climate change (58% of the articles; Table 1). Of those that noted particular hazards as motivators, drought (54%), extreme precipitation and inland flooding (43%), and precipitation variability (44%) were most common ( Fig. 1h- household-level water supply in cities 51,52 . In Bolivia, Guatemala and Kenya, for example, the threat of droughts and precipitation variability have spurred changes in food systems 53 53 . ...
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Assessing global progress on human adaptation to climate change is an urgent priority. Although the literature on adaptation to climate change is rapidly expanding, little is known about the actual extent of implementation. We systematically screened >48,000 articles using machine learning methods and a global network of 126 researchers. Our synthesis of the resulting 1,682 articles presents a systematic and comprehensive global stocktake of implemented human adaptation to climate change. Documented adaptations were largely fragmented, local and incremental, with limited evidence of transformational adaptation and negligible evidence of risk reduction outcomes. We identify eight priorities for global adaptation research: assess the effectiveness of adaptation responses, enhance the understanding of limits to adaptation, enable individuals and civil society to adapt, include missing places, scholars and scholarship, understand private sector responses, improve methods for synthesizing different forms of evidence, assess the adaptation at different temperature thresholds, and improve the inclusion of timescale and the dynamics of responses.
The rapid global spread of the Anthropocene concept across disciplines, languages, cultures and religions has been extraordinary and is unique in scientific history for a basic concept.
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The drought that drew the world's attention to Cape Town in early 2018 was the worst on record, threatening to cut off household taps for 4 million people. Even before the drought, the city's relation to water was complex; South Africa still struggles with the legacy of racial inequality including its implications for water justice. Spatial and economic segregation of people initiated when Europeans first settled in the Cape culminated during the apartheid era 1948–1994. It forcibly moved hundreds of thousands of “colored” and “black” Capetonians to inferior housing in low‐lying areas prone to flooding and with limited access to water, sanitation, and other services. Post‐1994 policies have aimed to promote water justice for all citizens, but municipalities have struggled with implementation especially in rapidly growing informal settlements. During the recent drought, the City of Cape Town ramped up its program for water demand management, including pressure reduction, leak repairs, and public awareness‐raising campaigns. However, poor communication and a lack of trust contributed to a near‐panic situation at the threat of “Day Zero” as dams almost ran dry in the first half of 2018. Saved by winter rains, Cape Town is now exploring additional water sources and developing a new Water Strategy. Taken together, the City's experiences demonstrate that sustainable water governance needs to acknowledge the interrelated threats of drought and flooding, and the range of impacts these threats as well as the City's responses have on a population still defined by extreme inequality. This article is categorized under: • Engineering Water > Planning Water • Human Water > Water Governance • Science of Water > Water Extremes Abstract Cape Town's water crisis was triggered by a 3‐year drought leaving reservoirs with just 10% usable water. Thanks to a joint effort by government, residents, and businesses, water used dropped massively and household taps remained open until winter rains replenished dam levels.
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Climate change is disruptive because virtually all aspects of our lives are best located in the Goldilocks zone: the place where it is “not too hot and not too cold but just right”. Rising greenhouse gases are heating the globe faster than has ever occurred before, and record-breaking intense, extreme weather is becoming more common. In the last three years unexpectedly severe hurricanes, heatwaves and forest fires have affected millions of people. What makes disruption dangerous? I suggest low predictability, high scale, speed and lack of reversibility are good guides. Risks to health are direct and indirect and include also the “transition risks” associated with responses to climate change. Sometimes disruption is welcome because it provides opportunities for radical action that would not be possible otherwise: in this vein, it has been argued that climate change is “not just a challenge, but the greatest public health opportunity of the 21st century”. The co-benefits agenda (justifying climate interventions on the basis of positive outcomes in other sectors) is beguiling: it promises a relatively smooth way forward, but might an emphasis on win-win interventions distract from the radical changes that are needed? There are other reasons for caution – the intersection of climate and health policies may contain trade-offs as well as synergies, and the prospect of future gains that outweigh immediate losses is seldom, on its own, sufficient to change in-grained behaviours and policies. Keywords: Climate change, Health, Co-benefits, Mitigation, Transport, Air pollution
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Technical Report
As the drought in Cape Town intensified in 2017/2018 and then abated later in 2018, international and national attention was focussed on Cape Town. It can be argued that Cape Town received such a high level of attention, because of its global status as a tourist destination, an economic hub of South Africa and because of how the political and bureaucratic response culminated in the dramatic “Day Zero” narrative. This paper aims to understand what happened in the Cape Town drought with a view to learning lessons that are translatable to other contexts. Due to the complex nature of the drought only certain aspects are investigated in depth in this paper namely the governance process, including the role of some of the actors and institutional arrangements. However, in order to provide context, issues related to water management, information and communication are included as well. The data for this paper comes from 21 interviews with senior officials and experts who were intimately involved in the drought response.
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The chapter discusses the politics of experimentation in governance. While experimentation is at the heart of the concept of polycentric governance, it is only weakly developed. A widely held expectation is that polycentric governance enhances innovation and learning for the common good, but this rests on naïve assumptions. The literature either assumes experiments to work as neutral tools for testing pre-existing conditions of governing or as a creative process of collectively constructing such condition. In any case, the social process of doing experiments is presupposed to be free and equal. This entails a dangerous myopia with regard to conflict and power. As a starting point for overcoming it we systematically discuss where and how experimentation involves politics. It starts with defining problems and questions for configuring experimental infrastructures, it continues with interactions and the closure of controversies within experimental collectives, and it leads into processes by which locally constructed truths are expanded into wider collective orders, by intertwined processes of building epistemic and political authority. Our conclusions call (a) for carrying out more vigilant research into how experiments are actually done in practice, (b) for drafting a political constitution for governance experiments, and (c) for integrating democratic quality as a key concern into the discourse of polycentric and experimental governance.
At a time when flows of both water and finances were severely curtailed, this article explores the public and private adaptation actions which played out during Cape Town's drought which produced a 'shock within a shock' on the municipality's budget (2016-2018), this article provides a detailed and embedded account of the severity, urgency and complexity of the challenges that decision makers are faced with during such unanticipated events. Shifts in approaches are identified and traced through budget allocations to display uncharted governance arrangements which, although stabilising, present novel finance and governance challenges amidst altered resource and operating conditions. Reflecting on observed shifts and shock to the municipal budget, the article highlights the challenge of an uncoordinated response between public and private actors that aim to secure high-reliability service delivery. Reflecting on the findings, recommendations outline resilience qualities necessary to municipal budgets through sketching contextually reflective questions for municipal financing models.
Facing acute water challenges, the City of Cape Town has to reconcile the goal of building resilience to increasingly pronounced climate change impacts, including drought, with the persistent need to deliver equitable services and to achieve socially and environmentally just outcomes. In so doing, Cape Town is actively leveraging ideas of resilience in dealing with acute water shortages and in planning for new approaches for water management in the future. In light of multiple and discordant approaches to building resilience to water risks, this paper traces the emergence of an unfolding water resilience agenda in Cape Town. Specifically, the paper investigates how different framings of resilience enable planners to consider and prioritize particular solutions, their implications for water planning, and how lessons from Cape Town’s experiences might apply to other contexts. The findings demonstrate the predominance of expert-driven and technocratic approaches in Cape Town’s resilience-building efforts in the water sector, as well as the presence of key tensions and potential synergies emerging from competing perspectives on water resilience.
Under conditions of protracted reduction in supply and heightened uncertainty, one of the notable responses to the Cape Town drought (2016-2018), was the proliferation of 'water resilience' in public and private discourses. Resilience was employed as an explanatory concept and governing tool, signalling a professed transition in the municipality's understandings to an altered climate episteme-or what they have called, a 'New Normal'. This article focuses on how public framings of resilience were used by the City of Cape Town to signal divorce from conventional approaches to climate and water. It contrasts conventional framings of a Holocene world, with those of a posited 'mentality of the Anthropocene' in order to elaborate this ostensible shift in mentality. Although this case study illustrates how public governors are finding utility in resilience as a term to facilitate explanation of their operating context, decisions and responses, contested and transitional mentalities elaborate why the municipality initially failed to anticipate, perceive and respond the drought. This article thereby highlights the cognitive tensions and practical challenges of transition for professionals patterned by conventional techno-managerial approaches, to a way of thinking more in line with reflexive and adaptive approaches anticipated to be necessary in an Anthropocene world.