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Exploring the socio-hydrological assessment of two small municipalities in the Western Cape - The Water Wheel September/October 2019

21 Oct 2019 - 11:30

Water scarcity is widespread globally, and is increasingly a major concern in Southern Africa. The Western Cape is no exception; its recent multi-year drought has sparked considerable reaction and adaptation. The impact of water scarcity is influenced by location, including both region and nature of settlement.

To develop our understanding of this at the scale of small municipalities, and in collaboration with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), we conducted a sociohydrological assessment of water management in Prince Albert and Swartland municipalities over the winter (May to July) of 2018. In addition to understanding how municipalities have adapted to water crises, the study was also an exploration of interdisciplinary research processes and methodologies in order to understand different perspectives of a given context, and to identify lessons for other interdisciplinary studies.

Following desktop reviews, two-day visits to each municipality were carried out by a research team from the Future Water research institute at the University of Cape Town. These visits followed a mixed methods approach of focus group discussions, transect walks, semi-structured interviews, and observations, with target respondents from the municipality, nature conservation, community groups and farmers, as well as the education, media, tourism, and local business sectors. Questions drew on different themes ranging from technical aspects, such as water supply, wastewater and solid waste infrastructure and management to the socio-relational aspects
of water scarcity, including drought impacts and emerging responses, coping and adaptation mechanisms, tensions, health concerns, cooperation (social cohesion), equity and economic concerns, and reflections on the municipality’s public engagement processes.

This article discusses some of the prominent themes that emerged in this study, with particular reference to the recent (2016 to 2018) drought. The discussions present context specific scenarios on the water-supply situation and alternative measures in place or envisioned in these municipalities. Further, adaptation measures adopted, people’s responses to these, and recommendations by the research team for building resilience in these towns are presented.

Click on the link below to read the full article which was published in The Water Wheel September/October 2019: