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Sustainable Futures: Water and Sanitation Paper

Sustainable Futures: Water and Sanitation Paper

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Sustainable Futures Papers and Presentations (A Collaborative Compilation by Industry Leaders) produced by the Sustainability Institute, 2008/9
Sustainable Futures Papers and Presentations (A Collaborative Compilation by Industry Leaders) produced by the Sustainability Institute, 2008/9

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Published by: Sustainable Neighbourhoods Network on Nov 30, 2010
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Water and Sanitation in the City of Cape Town: sustainability uncertainKevin Winter
University of Cape Town Kevin.Winter@uct.ac.za  
1. Introduction
Reports commissioned by the City of Cape Town (CoCT) in the past few yearson water and sanitation largely provide a technical analysis of water andsanitation services, but fail to offer a clear statement as to whether the City ismanaging these resources sustainably or not. An unequivocal statement onsustainability is required not only to inform consumers, but also to inspire publicconfidence and trust in those responsible for the management of water resourcesand water related services. However, determining such a statement is fraughtwith difficulty for a myriad of reasons, but primarily at the level of knowing what tomeasure, how to achieve these measurements, and how to interpret and analysethe data. Moreover, quantitative data alone cannot explain the pathway towardssustainability. It is therefore not surprising that measures for determiningsustainability are not discussed in either the Water Services Development Planfor the City of Cape Town or Western Cape Water Supply System report, two ofthe most comprehensive water reports of recent years. This paper seeks to raisethis concern while still focusing on the central question posed by the brief, that of,
how can the City best provide water and sanitation services, while conserving the resource and minimising pollution of the natural environment’.
The discussioncommences with a broad overview of water and sanitation in the City, followed bya conceptual understanding of sustainability in terms of water services, andfinally to conclude that a transition towards sustainability for the City of CapeTown is uncertain.Without doubt the City’s Water and
 
Sanitation Services Department faces a hostof critical challenges which include meeting the increasing water demand;eradicating the backlog of basic sanitation services; complying with wastewatereffluent standards; managing ageing infrastructure and deteriorating assets;extending infrastructure to meet the developmental needs; ensuring financialsustainability of services; and building the human capacity capable of addressingthese pressing challenges (CoCT, 2007). A failure to make substantial progressin these issues will impact on the water security and health of the city with dire
 
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consequences that could easily result in widespread conflict and socio-economicinstability. These challenges are exacerbated by the fact that the City has limitedcontrol over the influx of an estimated 7,700 households per annum; an averagepopulation growth rate of 2.5% (2001 - 2006) which is likely to continue at a rateof 1.3% to 2016 and beyond; and an expected population of 4 255 847 by 2031(CoCT, 2007). These factors alone compromise the City’s efforts to realize itsself-proclaimed vision of becoming a leader in the provision of equitable,sustainable, people-centred, affordable and credible water services (CoCT,2007:17). In essence the City is involved in a struggle to control the consumptionof a finite resource amidst unreasonable demand, where the biophysicalenvironmental is no longer able to absorb pollution or to dilute wastewateradequately, and where the investment in fixed assets and human resources isseverely constrained by a limited budget and human capacity.
2. Troubled waters: an overview of the City’s water supply and demand
Surface runoff in South Africa comprises approximately 9% of the totalprecipitation, while the remaining 91% either evaporates or infiltrates. Theconversion ratio of rainfall to runoff for the country as a whole is among thelowest in the world compared to the global average of 35% (Shultz, 1997).Currently surface water resources for the City represent 440.5 Mm
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 /year, or a97% total yield. Between 70 and 75% of the City’s raw water requirements areobtained from dams owned by the South African Department of Water Affairs andForestry (DWAF) all of which fall outside the boundaries of the City’s catchment.Only 15% of the raw water requirements are met from sources within the CapeMetropolitan Area (CMA). It is projected that existing water resources, includingthe new Berg River Water Scheme, will meet Cape Town’s water demand untilapproximately 2013 provided a low water demand projection is maintained (SeeFigure 3 and the discussion later). While groundwater might be a further option toconsider, it is estimated that the total yield is little more than 6.64 Mm
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 /year,representing only 1.5% of the total yield. Of critical importance is the relationshipbetween groundwater and surface water. Groundwater can only be abstracted ona sustainable basis at a rate less than, or equal to, its long-term averagerecharge of rainwater. Over-extraction will result in the drying of rivers andwetlands, a reduction in subsurface flow and groundwater failure.In April 2007 the input into the reticulation system was estimated to be 268Mm
3
 /year, the non-revenue demand being 62 Mm
3
 /year and real losses of 47Mm
3
 /year. The distribution of this water demand for 2006/7 is represented bydifferent categories of consumers (Figure 1). Of note is the relatively large
 
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proportion of consumption in the domestic clusters (combined total of 52%) andalso a relatively high proportion of non-revenue water demand. It is also worthnoting that water-use in urban agriculture and tourism are not disaggregated. Ithighlights the need to improve understanding and regulation of water-use inthese and other strategic sectors of the urban economy.
Water User Categories in CT 2006- 2007
Domestic Full46%
Domestic Cluster6%DepartmentalCluster2%Commercial &Industrial14%Municipal2%Unbilled2%Non-RevenueDemand19%Miscellaneous6%Government2%Schools andSportsfields1%
 Figure 1: The distribution of water demand categories in Cape Town for 2006-2007 (Source: CoCT, 2007)The average water use per capita in the City is approximately 230 litres perperson daily, which indicates a slight decrease from 270 litres per person day in2000 (CoCT, 2008). This decrease is attributed to the introduction of waterrestrictions in 2001 and serves to illustrate the response to a water demandmanagement strategy, although the demand increased soon after theserestrictions were lifted (Figure 2). In 2003/04 the daily average water demandwas 850 Ml/day. Again after severe Level 2 restrictions were imposed in 2004/05the demand dropped to 737Ml/day, but only to rise again in 2005/06 to 796Ml perday and 845Ml per day in 2006/07. It demonstrates that consumers respond wellto periods of imposed water restrictions, but consumption rates return to previoushighs soon after restrictions are lifted. It can be concluded that water demandmanagement is perceived as an administrative exercise that is inconvenient forconsumers for a short period, but has limited impact in influencing long termadaptation and behavioural change.

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