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Some systems perspectives on demand management during Cape Town's 2015-2018 water crisis Some systems perspectives on demand management during Cape Town's 2015-2018 water crisis

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Abstract

Cape Town recently suffered severe water shortages triggered by a multi-year drought. These shortages were aggravated by reliance on demand management to balance supply and demand in the rapidly growing city. This article considers the interaction between the supply-side planning system and the less systematic approach used to plan and manage what is characterized as the demand-side system. Political priorities and preferences as well as perceptions of and attitudes towards risk influenced demand forecasts and development decisions. The experience illustrates the importance of a more systematic approach to demand forecasting to reduce the risk of supply failures.

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... Changing rainfall patterns, declines in precipitation and runoff, and increased evapotranspiration rates attributable to climate change are the most likely physical drivers of future water scarcity in Africa (Gan et al., 2016;Markonis et al., 2021), a situation that will be exacerbated by human drivers like population increase (Ahmadalipour et al., 2019). But we know in Africa total amounts of water can mask variabilities in access and utility as water scarcity is determined by more than just physical amounts of bulk water, but also broader developmental dimensions such as governance, institutions, gender equality, poverty, security, education, and health (Asmall et al., 2021;Muller, 2019;Muller, 2020;Stringer et al., 2021). Further, climate change does not only affect the hydrological cycle, but it has also direct and indirect impacts on these societal drivers of water scarcity (Haughey et al., 2019;Hurlbert et al., 2019;Smith et al., 2019;Warner et al., 2019b), and human responses to water scarcity can have compounding and cascading effects on concurrent and future response capacity, as well as on the resource itself (Cole et al., 2021;Simpson et al., 2021b;Simpson et al., 2020a;Simpson et al., 2020b). ...
... Given such contextual exposures and vulnerabilities, water scarcity in Africa needs to be understood within broader social and developmental contexts. Further, a lack of effective water delivery, especially under shock or stress conditions (Simpson, 2019;Simpson et al., 2019b;Simpson et al., 2020a;Simpson et al., 2020b), has led scholars to indicate management and governance failures as a leading causes of water scarcity (Muller, 2019;Rugemalila and Gibbs, 2015). ...
... The burden of water scarcity is felt hardest by the primary water collector in rural and urban contexts (Grasham et al., 2019a). For such reasons, water scarcity responses need to go beyond supply, technological, planning and management imperatives (Muller, 2019;Scheba and Millington, 2019;Vanham et al., 2018) to also consider their social capital, institutional, livelihoods and wellbeing dimensions (Nhamo and Agyepong, 2019;Ouweneel et al., 2020;Petrie, 2017;Simpson et al., 2020a;Simpson et al., 2019c;Ziolkowska, 2016). ...
Article
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.
... They dropped to such low levels in early 2018 that Cape Town was at risk of becoming the first major city worldwide to face a "Day Zero" when the municipal piped system would essentially stop delivering water to homes and businesses. To curb demand, the local municipality implemented a variety of demand-side management tools (Booysen et al., 2019;Brick et al., 2018;Brühl & Visser, 2021;Muller, 2019;Parks et al., 2019;Sinclair-Smith & Winter, 2019;Taing et al., 2019). Households faced increasingly stringent controls on water usage, forbidding watering gardens or pools in earlier stages and restricting residents to 50 L of water per person per day by February 2018. ...
... At the same time, the City increased its efforts to raise water conservation awareness and to inform the public about the severity of the drought (Booysen et al., 2019;Sinclair-Smith et al., 2018;Ziervogel, 2018). All interventions combined led to a more than 50% decrease in consumption in less than three years (Brühl & Visser, 2021;Muller, 2019). Decomposing the marginal impacts of each type of demand-side policy in a causal framework is very difficult given that the various policies overlapped temporally and spatially and likely had lagged effects that would confound event-type analyses. ...
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We calculate the first distributional statistics for municipal water use with 14.9 million monthly billing records for a half million households in Cape Town, South Africa, from 2014 to 2018. These years span a historic drought and a multi‐faceted package of conservation programs that achieved a 50% citywide drop in consumption. We find that the top 10% of households consumed 31% of water before the drought, with the Gini coefficient showing clear seasonal peaks driven by outdoor water use. Matching billing records to fine‐grained census data from 2011, we find that the correlation between income and water use in the winter was 0.08 but rose to 0.36 during outdoor watering seasons. This correlation declines before switching signs by the end of the drought. The city's increasing block tariff implied that the top 10% of users generate 50%–60% of utility revenues. Although before the drought these top users were more likely to be high income, the composition of top water users changed during the drought. Average income of top users during the drought was 35% lower than the average income of top users before the drought. Our results suggest that Cape Town's policy of providing a free allowance of 10.5 kL (m³) per month to qualify indigent households helped protect many, but not all, from multiple steep tariff increases.
... The academic and policy literature on the California drought tends to focus on the statelevel response, particularly the various EOs implemented by then-Governor Jerry Brown and the implementation and enforcement of these orders through the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and Department of Water Resources (DWR), and generally discusses urban water districts' actions as they emerged under the auspices of these state agencies(Lund et al. 2018;Maggioni 2015;Pérez-Urdiales and Baerenklau 2020;Tortajada et al. 2017). Perspectives on the Western Cape drought typically center city-level action in referencing "Cape Town's Day Zero water crisis," with then-Mayor Patricia de Lille, then-Deputy Mayor Ian Nielsen, and other highlevel municipal figures as the primary faces of the response(Bischoff-Mattson et al. 2020;Brick, De Martino, and Visser 2018;Joubert and Ziervogel 2019;Muller 2018;Parks et al. 2019;Shepherd 2019;Ziervogel 2019). The basic logic underlying these respective scales of focus is that while California includes several major urban areas with diverse water use dynamics, Cape ...
Thesis
Recent severe droughts in California, USA and the Western Cape Province, South Africa attracted global attention as water scarcity challenged cities, rural communities, agricultural industries, and ecosystems in varied ways. Governments responded to these conditions by setting and ultimately achieving water conservation targets, and scholarship evaluating the causes and consequences of both droughts from diverse perspectives emerged. This study extends existing scholarship by comparing drought responses in terms of their effects on water (in)justice, or social inequality as evinced in relationships to water access networks. In so doing, I explain how and why the drought responses materialized and manifested in widened inequalities, using information from previous research on the droughts and drought responses, policy documents, and interviews with key informants in each region about their perspectives on the droughts and the ensuing policy responses. I analyzed these data using mechanism-based process tracing methods. In both cases, causal mechanisms linking government responses to widened inequalities include what I identify as values-reinforcement mechanisms and strategic communication mechanisms. The common presence of these mechanisms reveals the resilience of dominant social values and constructions, even in response to socio-environmental challenges. The particular importance of interlinked policy- and household-level decisions around groundwater resources during drought events also emerged through comparative analysis of the cases. To conclude, I suggest practical implications based on these insights and areas for future research, highlighting droughts as consequential policy sites for advancing social and environmental justice.
... The causes, symptoms, and oversights can be mapped onto the diagnostic process of Section 2.2. Muller (2020) argues that there was overreliance on demand management to balance supply and demand in the rapidly growing city. This argument suggests an insufficient physical examination, an underappreciation of the physical characteristics of the area, namely the capacity of the water storage infrastructure. ...
Article
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Drought management is currently informed by a variety of approaches, mostly responding to drought crisis when it happens. Toward more effective and integrated drought management, we introduce a conceptual drought diagnosis framework inspired by diagnostic concepts from the field of medicine. This framework comprises five steps: 1. Initial diagnostic assessment; 2. Diagnostic testing; 3. Consultation; 4. Communication of the diagnosis; and 5. Treatment and prognosis. To illustrate the need for the proposed approach, four case studies of recently drought‐affected regions were selected: the city of Cape Town, the state of California, the Northeast region of Brazil, and the Horn of Africa. Contrasting elements for these cases include the geographic extent and political boundaries, climate, socio‐economics, and the relevance of different water resources (e.g., rainfall, reservoirs, and aquifers). For each case, we identified documented practices and policies and reflected on them in terms of drought misdiagnosis or incomplete diagnosis that have aggravated socio‐economic and environmental drought impacts. A common example is the preference for technical solutions (e.g., installing infrastructure to augment water supply), rather than measures that reduce vulnerability. Analysis of these four drought case studies confirmed the anticipated need for a comprehensive approach to drought diagnosis for more successful treatment and prevention of drought. Using an analogy with medical science can be helpful toward comprehensively diagnosing droughts for a variety of contexts and assessing the effectiveness of proposed interventions. This framework can help drought managers to be more proactive in enabling drought‐affected regions to become more drought resilient in the future.
... Otto et al. [44] concluded that human-induced climate change tripled the likelihood of the 2015-2018 drought. The extreme, multi-year low winter rainfall was the primary driver of the 2015-2018 Cape Town drought, but management of the WCWSS also contributed to the water stress [45]. ...
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Disaster planning for slow-onset city-wide shocks will be become increasingly necessary, particularly as cities face increasingly severe climate hazards. This paper provides unique insight into the disaster planning and management that was undertaken by the City of Cape Town government in response to its most severe hydrological drought on record. It describes how risk was understood and why decisions were made on key elements of the plan, including trigger points, risk prioritisation and mitigation, and the location and design of points of distribution of water rations for the public. Reflecting upon the authors’ experience and interviews with senior City officials who worked on the drought disaster planning and response, the paper extracts five key lessons learnt that have since been applied during the COVID-19 pandemic: (i) the need for cross-functional planning and response skills, (ii) the need for integrated, up-to-date and scale-appropriate data; (iii) the importance of scenario-based simulations, communication and rapid costing to enable the rapid scaling-up of a response; (iv) the value of being able to use outsourced expert capacity effectively; and (v) the application of previously used disaster management and planning experience to build resilience in cities. These lessons, captured in a visual framework, help reflect on capabilities required for responding to future city-scale disasters. The paper provides an informative case study for other cities and risk managers, and will be particularly useful for global South contexts that face drought and other slow-onset disasters, most recently illustrated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
... Integrated Water Management (IWM) is crucial to address water insecurity caused by either drought or floods (Cameron andKatzschner, 2017, Allan et al., 2013). Specific strategies included subnational financing (Ding et al., 2019, Cameron andKatzschner, 2017), demand management through subsidies, rates and taxes (Ouweneel et al., 2020, Simpson et al., 2019b, and sustainable water technologies , Simpson et al., 2019a, Muller, 2019, Nhamo and Agyepong, 2019. Although IWM had medium feasibility along economic and social dimensions, it showed low feasibility for most African cities due to technical and institutional restrictions. ...
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Considering the feasibility and effectiveness of adaptation options is essential for guiding responses to climate change that reduce risk. Here, we assessed the feasibility of adaptation options for the African context. Using the Global Adaptation Mapping Initiative, a stocktake of adaptation-related responses to climate change from the peer-reviewed literature in 2013–2020, we found 827 records of adaptation actions in Africa. We categorised and evaluated 24 adaptation options and for each option, six dimensions of feasibility were considered: economic, environmental, social, institutional, technological, and evidence of effectiveness. Over half (51%) of all adaptation actions were reported in the food sector where sustainable water management was the most reported option. The fewest actions were reported for cities (5%). The majority of actions (53%) were recorded in just 6 countries: Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and South Africa. Encouragingly, effectiveness was assessed as medium or high for 95% of adaptation options. However, no options had high feasibility on any other dimension. Technological and institutional factors present major barriers to implementation. Crop management, sustainable water management, sustainable agricultural practices, agroforestry, livelihood diversification, ecosystem governance and planning, health governance and planning, infrastructure and built environment, all had moderate feasibility across three or more dimensions. Human migration has low feasibility but high potential for risk reduction. Major knowledge gaps exist for environmental feasibility, for assessing adaptation limits at increasing levels of climate hazard, for economic trade-offs and synergies, and for Central and Northern Africa. Our results highlight sectors where enablers for adaptation can be increased. Future assessments can apply the method established here to extend findings to other national and local levels.
... The viewpoints discuss systems perspectives on demand management during the Cape Town water crisis of 2015-2018 (Muller, 2019); how the well-known Orange County Water District in California has managed to obtain wide acceptance for potable water reuse (Markus & Torres, 2020); and Nestle's strategies for water conservation (Galli & Vousvouras, 2020). ...
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The sustainable management of water resources is required to avoid water scarcity becoming widespread. This article explores the potential application of a social-ecological framework, used predominantly in the fields of ecology and conservation, as a tool to improve the sustainability and resilience of water resources. The “red-loop green-loop” (RL-GL) model has previously been used to map both sustainable and unsustainable social-ecological feedbacks between ecosystems and their communities in countries such as Sweden and Jamaica. In this article, we demonstrate the novel application of the RL-GL framework to water resources management using the 2017/18 Cape Town water crisis as an example. We used the framework to analyse the social-ecological dynamics of pre-crisis and planned contingency scenarios. We found that the water resources management system was almost solely reliant on a single, non-ecosystem form of infrastructure, the provincial dam system. As a prolonged drought impacted this key water resource, resilience to resource collapse was shown to be low and a missing feedback between the water resource and the Cape Town community was highlighted. The collapse of water resources (“Day Zero”) was averted through a combination of government and community group led measures, incorporating both local ecosystem (green-loop) and non-local ecosystem (red-loop) forms of water resource management, and increased rainfall returning to the area. Additional disaster management plans proposed by the municipality included the tighter integration of red and green-loop water management approaches, which acted to foster a stronger connection between the Cape Town community and their water resources. We advocate the wider development and application of the RL-GL model, theoretically and empirically, to investigate missing feedbacks between water resources and their communities.
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Climate change has led to several extreme weather events across the world. One such weather extreme is drought. Drought phenomenon has been increasing in both frequency and intensity globally of late. To this end, there has been growing concern about the impact droughts have and will have on the tourist destinations in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. In this study, which employs a mixed-methods approach utilising primary, archival and secondary data, we examine the impact of the 2015–2018 drought episodes on the tourism industry in the Western Cape as well as the industry's response. These drought episodes famously led to the Day Zero phenomenon, a situation that could have resulted in taps running dry at some point. The study found that the drought led to a severe decline in tourist arrivals at the major tourist attractions in the Western Cape province as well as a decline in tourist spending and hotel occupancy. This resulted in a loss of potential revenue and jobs. The province had been experiencing a decline in rainfall that drastically affected water supplies; a trend likely to recur in the future. During and after the drought, the tourism industry adopted several measures aimed at augmenting and saving water, thereby easing the sector's water demand. We recommend that the tourism sector and the Western Cape province build on the successes and lessons learnt during the Day Zero campaign to prepare for the future. This would allow the province to address Sustainable Development Goal 6, focusing on water and sanitation as a part of embracing responsible and sustainable tourism. Hence, continuous research, innovation and investment in the water-smart industry is a must for Cape Town and the Western Cape province.
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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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Sophisticated stochastic optimization and simulation methods to assist with the management of large water resource systems in South Africa were developed and rigorously applied during the last decade. Acceptance today is not only due to the sound theory underpinning the methodology and the successes achieved with respect to improved resource utility, but also because of efforts to communicate findings to decision makers and interested and affected parties. Credibility was further enhanced by a number of practical applications where decisions based on information provided by the models led to substantial cost-savings.The paper gives an introductory perspective of water resource systems modelling in South Africa. Concepts of yield, together with probabilistic approaches to assess the yield characteristics of water resource systems, are described. Reference is made to different practical applications of the methodology.
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