Panelists: Neil Armitage (Future Water, University of Cape Town), Barry Wood (City of Cape Town Bulkwater), Claire Pengelly (GreenCape Water Economist)

“It’s about seeing the connections when in silo’s we can only see challenges” – Neil Armitage, Future Water

The challenge:

  • Population and economic growth needs to be decoupled from water demand.
  • This is a prolonged drought and even with good rain 2018 will be difficult. It is important to save water in winter to manage better in summer when it doesn’t rain. This needs to happen at large and small (individual and neighbourhood) levels.
  • We cannot provide more water supply but we can move towards being a water sensitive city.
  • Allocating funding to research in a highly constrained environment.
  • There is a “communication gap” between research and implementation that hampers a progressive change in water management.

We need a new water paradigm that does not focus on surface water: we do not have places nor a suitable climate for new dams. So we need to consider alternatives to conventional water, and look after the water we do have, reuse it where possible and consider fit for purpose applications. This needs to happen at all levels – the individual, at neighbourhood level, at city level and catchment levels.

“Water sensitive implementation and an ethic of care becomes a gift that keeps on giving” – Bernelle Verster, Future Water

Developing a new water paradigm needs many things. One important thing is research. Doing good research needs funding and good data. On the other hand researchers need to work at providing short term and long term gains to incentivise investment in research in constrained environments.

“The city’s role is to provide strategic leadership and enabling policies” – Barry Wood, City of Cape Town.

Stormwater harvesting is a great solution that incorporates managed aquifer recharge and utilises the rain that falls in the city – which is two to three times the city’s water demand. Stormwater is not without risks, but there are ways to manage the combination of stormwater, treated effluent and groundwater that also improves the water quality and contributes positively to ecosystem services. In addition we can use this management to dry out the informal settlements, improving the quality of life for all Cape Town’s residents. We need to change how we do our drainage systems, at all levels.

“We need to facilitate the public to innovate responsibly” – Claire Pengelly, GreenCape

Recommendations to integrate research and implementation towards a water sensitive Cape Town:

  • Research into stormwater harvesting needs systematic buy in from the city, and dedicated funding. A successful example is eThekwini Municipality’s agreement with the University of KwaZulu Natal.
  • We need to incentivise research support, and build cohesion across the different stakeholders who may not share common incentives, creating “entrepreneurial ecosystems” that nudges progressive changes in water management using the signals received and given by research and industry.
  • One way to design a solution space together is through facilitation by a ‘research broker’ to fill the gap between reported research and what implementation needs to be useful for business objectives.
    • Academics can do more to report in useful ways
    • Academics need to include more ‘smart’, applied projects in their research mix to incentivise continued research investment.

“Drought is a teacher. This is a learning space” – Dave Crombie, Water Institute of Southern Africa (WISA)

Current initiatives and further reading:

"We are committed to a water sensitive future” – Barry Wood, City of Cape Town

Following this event, a group of urbanists met to share knowledge on how water resources in the context of water sensitive design can be expanded and implemented. Meeting notes webpage