The Inaugural Lecture titled: ‘After the water crisis: how to turn Cape Town into a water-sensitive city’ by Professor Neil Armitage
THE announcement of “Day Zero” – when the taps would be turned off – reverberated around the world. Was Cape Town going to be the first major city without water? It certainly woke Capetonians to the need to get serious about saving water!
To their credit, the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Provincial Government worked tirelessly behind the scenes to keep the water flowing, while most Capetonians eventually got into the spirit of saving and learnt how to make do using less or non-potable water. Agriculture made considerable sacrifices as well.
Now that we have had a more normal rainy season, the “big six” dams have recovered to an extent, and the water crisis seems to be a thing of the past, what should Cape Town – and Capetonians – be doing to avoid any future Day Zero?
The city is already talking of a “new normal” and building resilience with respect to water supply – but what is the new normal and how does one build resilience in a rapidly changing environment?
Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) (https://www.Youtube.Com/watch?V=b_dtnozytr4) is a concept that was largely developed in response to the Australian Millennium Drought, which had much in common with what we are currently experiencing in South Africa. It is being adopted in South Africa where it is called Water Sensitive Design (WSD).
Key to understanding WSD is the notion of a Water Sensitive City (WSC), a city where the management of water is given prominence (https://www.Youtube.Com/watch?V=6kfqemclxk8).
WSD takes many forms, but an important paradigm shift is to start viewing towns and cities as important water catchments supplementary to – perhaps even replacing – remote rural catchments.
The Future Water Research Institute (http://www.Futurewater. Uct.Ac.Za/), through the Urban Water Management Research Unit, has been working with the Water Research Commission (WRC) of South Africa for more than 10 years in a bid to guide South African towns and cities towards greater water sensitivity. Come and listen to Neil Armitage as he discusses what this might mean for Cape Town – and Capetonians.