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Henry JL Badenhorst

Soli Deo Gloria

The water crisis worldwide is very real pressurized by population growth and exacerbated
by climate change. In dealing with this crisis there are different approaches such as water
management weaponry to improve urban resilience, the willing seller/ willing buyer
approach and the improved water productivity or soft path approach. Participation in
water management processes are deemed ineffective if government led. Indigenous
knowledge practices in the Congo basin are untenable when climate change adversely
affects rainfall patterns.

Title: The nature and extent of the worlds current water crisis and how the crisis affects
South-Africa, in relation to:
(a) The incidence of water scarcity and its relationship with climate change;
(b) Local participation in water resource management, lessons from the
BWP case study;
(c) Impact of climate change on indigenous knowledge in the Congo basin;
(d) Dealing with the water crisis;

Water management can improve urban resilience;

ii. Lessons about water management from The Tamil

Nadu case study;
iii. The soft option to address water scarcity
(e) The impact of the water crisis on South-Africa

1. Introduction

2. Water scarcity and its relationship with climate change


3. Lessons from local participation in water scarcity management


4. Impact of climate change on Indigenous knowledge

5. Improved water management to strengthen urban resilience


6. A different approach to water management


7. The soft option to address water scarcity


8. Water scarcity in South-Africa


9. Conclusion


10. Bibliography


Water is vital for sustaining life as a whole and without it, life would cease to exist
(Treurnicht.2008:5). According to Fortune magazine: "Water promises to be to the 21st
century what oil was to the 20th century: the precious commodity that determines the
wealth of nations." ( The World Business Council for Sustainable
Development states about water: Everyone understands that water is essential to life. But
many are only just now beginning to grasp how essential it is to everything in life food,
energy, transportation, nature, leisure, identity, culture, social norms, and virtually all the
products used on a daily basis ( These statements emphasise our
absolute reliance on water. Global population growth have sky rocketed over the last
several decades.Since water is a non-renewable resource, access to water is becoming a
growing global problem for the fast growing world population. Water availability is
furthermore, impacted negatively by climate change, due to global warming.
The world is in the midst of a water crisis. According to CGIAR Challenge Program on
Water and Food (, one in every five people in the world, lacks
safe drinking water. The future position will not improve, since it is estimated that over the












( Water scarcity will be discussed in terms of whether the

world is currently in a state of water scarcity or not, by looking at statistics. The impact that
climate change has on water availability and its relationship with water scarcity receives
attention. The issue of local participation, by means of government driven participatory
process, in water scarcity management, in the context of the BWP (Berg Water Project) is
dealt with. The negative impact that climate change, specifically an increase in
precipitation, is having on the slash and burn farming practices in the Congo basin, will
illustrate the linkage between indigenous knowledge and climate change. In dealing with
the water crisis, three different approaches that can address this problem, are brought under
the spotlight, namely improved water management that will strengthen urban resilience; a
unique flexible willing seller/willing buyer approach in water management adopted by
the Tamil Nadu local government in India; and Gleicks soft path for water that focuses
on the overall improvement of water productivity. Lastly, the effects of the water crisis in
South-Africa, is investigated.
Water scarcity and its relationship with climate change
The CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food Water ( points
out that water scarcity is one of the most pressing issues facing humanity today, since
sufficient water is required for adequate human health and furthermore is a prerequisite for
poverty reduction. According to the Global humanitarian Forum (2009:40), 1.3 billion

people, are water stressed, in the sense that they face extreme water scarcity. Half the
worlds population lacks access to sanitation, many rural poor do not access to water for
productive purposes, groundwater levels in key aquifers are falling rapidly and many rivers
are no longer reaching the sea (Risjberman.2006:341) Water scarcity is a reality for many,
especially in the developing South.
What does the term water scarcity mean, and how does it impact us? When a person has
no access to safe and affordable water to satisfy his/her needs for drinking, washing, or
livelihood purposes, he/she is water insecure; and when a large amount of people in area
are water insecure for a significant period of time, the area is called water scarce
(Risjberman2006:329 Lack of access to water, has a major impact on peoples well-being
(Risjberman2006:329). A lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation, combined
with poor personal hygiene, cause many health problems, particularly through diarrhoeal
diseases (Risjberman2006:329). An estimated 2.3 million die annually due to a lack of
adequate water and sanitation (Global Humanitarian Forum.2009:42) Chronic shortages of
freshwater are likely to threaten food production, reduce sanitation, hinder economic
development and damage ecosystems (Global Humanitarian Forum.2009:40). Water
scarcity decreases food security, because less water is available for farming, causing crops
to wilt and leading to poor rural farmers vulnerability (Global Humanitarian
Climate change, brought about by global warming, severely impacts water availability.
Every year climate change, leaves over 300 000 people dead, 325 million seriously
affected, and economic losses of US$ 125 billion (Global Humanitarian Forum.2009:1).
Furthermore, climate change, threatens sustainable development and all eight Millennium
Development Goals (Global Humanitarian Forum.2009:4) Climate change impacts on
people in food security, due to reduced agricultural yield; health issues such as diarrhoea,
asthma and malaria with increased temperatures; increased poverty, when livelihoods are
destroyed when weather related disasters eliminates income potential; water scarcity due to
a lack overall supply of clean water and frequent and severe floods and droughts;
displacement due to sea level rises, desertification and floods; and human security, due to
migration, people have to face continuous potential conflict (Global Humanitarian
Forum.2009:22). Although future population growth, increasing food demands and
unsustainable agricultural practices, place the largest pressures on the worlds finite
freshwater resources, climate change exacerbates water scarcity and ads new risks to
farming systems (Global Humanitarian Forum.2009:43)
Most notably when climate changes impact water scarcity; it sets a chain reaction in
motion. Water scarcity, acting as a trigger sets off a chain reaction of other areas where
climate change impact society (food security, health problems, poverty, displacement and

human security), like a domino effect. Rising temperatures leads to water scarcity, which in
turn reduces the amount of arable land, in turn aggravating food security, leading to
reduced crop productions, causing loss of income, leading to malnutrition, rendering people
too weak to work and consequent financial instability and eventually, to migration, which
in turn may lead to social unrest (Global Humanitarian Forum.2009:29). These
consequences mutually enforce and strengthen each other, leading to people being trapped
within poverty and human insecurity. Climate change compounds existing poverty by
destroying livelihoods(Global Humanitarian Forum.2009:33)
Places, severely affected by water related climate change, according to the Global
Humanitarian Forum (2009:44-45) are Morocco and Mexico City. Morocco, situated on the
edge of the Sahara, has always had water scarcity problems, but now due to climate
change, the problem has been exacerbated (Global Humanitarian Forum.2009:44)The
government however is using 20-30 percent of the national budget on water management
projects such as irrigation and water pipes with huge success (Global Humanitarian
Forum.2009:44) Fast growing urban areas, like Mexico City is also vulnerable to water
problems (Global Humanitarian Forum.2009:45) Water scarcity problems in Mexico City,
is further compounded by human factors such as over-exploitation, fast growing
populations, especially in squatter communities and outdated basic services, leading to
sewage overflows and flooding after heavy rains (Global Humanitarian Forum.2009:45)
Mexico decided to shut down its water supply for 3 days per month from an overexploited
basin, instead drawing water from groundwater, but it has led to its depletion (Global
Humanitarian Forum.2009:45) With a projected 5 percent fall in precipitation by 2020,
water scarcity is bound to get worse in Mexico City (Global Humanitarian
Lessons from Local participation in water resource management
There has been a recent developmental stress on local participation in natural resource
management, particularly water, such as the WCD (World Commission on Dams) dialogue
and report in 2000 (Thompson.2005:486). This seems to have influenced South-Africa on
all levels (Thompson.2005:486). Thompsons working paper on participatory processes
focuses on participation around water scarcity management in the Western Cape,
specifically the building of the BWP (Berg Water Project), where formal spaces of
participation were set up by the government of South-Africa (Thompson.2005:486).
Thompson (2005:488-489) describes two participatory processes. The first process
involved a long government driven participatory process which included all interested and
affected parties, to debate options for solving the Western Capes water crisis and included








(Thompson.2005:488-489). The second process, was the institutionalisation of the civic

input concerning the actual building of the dam, by means of the EMC (Environmental
Management Committee), which included the election of groups, including representatives
of the environmental movement. Both these processes show a very high level of
government commitment to include civil society, Community Based Organisations and
NGOs in NRM (Natural Resource Management) (Thompson.2005:488-489).
There are however shortcomings when formal participatory spaces are created by
government for interested and affected parties to voice their concerns on issues such as
the environment. Firstly, the creation of specific spaces for resistance can lead to the
watering down of the force of organised resistance to the point where it becomes
ineffective (Thompson.2005:489). These so-called Democratic spaces takes away the
impetus from more unorganised potential forms of resistance according to Thompson
(2005:512) Secondly, the success of the resistance depends on timing and whether the
social movement, invited to participate, can play the game according to the rules set by
government (Thompson.2005:489). If there is a time lag in sustained environmental and
social mobilisation, like there was in the BWP, resistance will fail (Thompson.2005:495).
Thirdly, social movements rely on mass mobilisation and the absence of it neutralizes
their impetus to resist effectively, which is exactly what happened during the building of
the BWP (Thompson.2005:495-496). Governments tend to neutralize resistance by
employing a strategy that there is indeed water scarcity, when in fact it may or may not be
the case (Thompson.2005:496).
Further constraints neutralizing the effectiveness of the resistance in particular with respect
to the building of the BWP, was the lack of synergy between locally based forms of
activism and the environmental NGOs (Thompson.2005:492); the fact that the
environmental movements resistance only gained momentum after the formal governmentled participation processes had taken place (Thompson.2005:491); the fact that
disadvantaged groups, which are more concerned with the economic impact of water
resource management and issues of service delivery, (the so-called brown environmental
issues), would only unite with the Environmental movement, on brown issues
(Thompson.2005:495); and the EMCs (Environmental Management Committee) lack of
power to act on grievances, remaining a toothless watchdog, and being the only space
through which questions of ecological impact can be debated (Thompson.2005:508)
The lessons we can take home from the BWP is that government led participatory
processes can lead to a watering down of the effectiveness of organised resistance to water
management projects, and that water scarcity is sometimes used by government as a scare
tactic to neutralize resistance and bring environmental activism on board. Social activism
should be aware of these constraints on their freedom to effectively resist. The can
challenge and prevail against local and global hegemonic discourses, influence norms and
value, mediate between state and society and perform state regulatory functions

(Thompson.2005:490). The condition to effectively resist, seems to be a refusal to be

pulled in by government-led participatory processes, which can turn them into toothless
watchdogs, there for the show, but unable to effect change.
Impact of climate change on Indigenous knowledge
The water crisis in the world is mostly assumed to be water scarcity, but as the following
case study of slash and burn farming practices in the Cong basin, will show, wetter isnt
necessarily better. Nearly 20 million forest farmers in the Congo basin rely on indigenous
knowledge to generate a livelihood (Wilkie, Morelli, Rotberg & Shaw.1999:527) The
indigenous knowledge in this case, being slash and burn farming practices that entail
clearing forest areas during the dry season and burning the debris to provide soil with
sufficient nutrients to ensure proper yields for the families to sustain themselves.
Climate change due to global warming will, according to climate models, affect the Congo
basin in that there will be an increase of rainfall of 0.5- 1.5 mm/day (between 200 and 600
mm per year), by the 2050s (Wilkie et al.1999:527-528). Little attention has been give to
these rainfall increases, since agronomists usually view too little, and not too much rain, as
a critical constraint to agricultural production (Wilkie et al.1999:527). If global warming
does as predicted, cause an increase in annual and dry season rainfall within the Congo
basin , then the frequency of weak dry seasons will likely increase as well as the frequency
and severity of the pre-harvest hunger periods, already in existence (Wilkie et al.1999:530).
This 1 mm/day increase is predicted to increase food shortages from once every four years
to once every 1-2 years, leading to two to four fold increase in food insecurity (Wilkie et
If global warming increases precipitation in the Congo basin, rendering age old traditional
practices, like slash and burn farming increasingly less productive, what alternatives remain
to these farmers to maintain rural livelihoods? (Wilkie et al.1999:530). Climate change, in
this case excessive rainfall, as opposed to water scarcity in most other regions, can impact
whole communities, setting off a chain reaction of food insecurity, displacement and social
Improved water management to strengthen urban resilience
In order to combat increased weather related risks, such as floods and water and power
supply failures, due to climate change, predicted to occur over the next century, Muller
(2007:238,241) proposes improved water management in order to build resilience within
urban areas. He proposes different instruments to the disposal of water managers that
would improve their ability to manage variabilitys due to climate change and which will
ultimately strengthen urban areas defences against water related risks (Muller.2007:240).
The instruments or weapons he proposes in the arsenal of water managers to address

variability of water resources, are water infrastructure and institutional mechanisms

The first mechanism that Muller proposes is the traditional solution of increased and
improved water infrastructure. Throughout history, water infrastructure, such as river
training, floodwalls, flood diversion canals, tanks and dams, has enabled households and
communities to manage the variability of water resources (Muller.2007:240). The water
managers, i.t.o. of water infrastructure has according to Muller several ways to manage the
impact of climate variability on water resources, namely; capturing and controlling river
flows which is in excess of user requirements, releasing them at a later stage when low
flows are insufficient; secondly, storing peak flows during floods, for later use, avoiding
flood damage and disasters; thirdly, storing water for electricity generation, in order to
sustain growing settlements; and lastly, constructing other waterworks, such as canals,
tunnels and pipelines, not only supplying human demands directly, but also creating linked
systems that will suffer less variability and improved supply security, like storm water
drainage systems and waste water disposal (Muller.2007:240-241).
The second weapon to the water managers disposal, are institutional mechanisms. These
institutional mechanisms, helps in dealing with climate variability, achieving goals such as
supplying water to people, industries and farms, as well as protecting communities from
flooding, while sustaining eco-systems (Muller.2007:241). The following institutional
instruments are mentioned by Muller, namely rules on water allocation, that prioritize
different uses of water at different times, usually enforced by water legislation; and land
use planning, preventing settlements to be located in vulnerable areas as well as
infrastructure such as floodwalls (Muller.2007:241).
Muller points out that a failure to address the impact of climate change on water resources
will leave urban residents vulnerable to a host of acute and slow onset disasters; such as
flood damage to urban settlements; water and electricity supply failures, impacting on
public health as well as on the economic performance and sustainability of urban areas; and
financial costs that will render water and related services unaffordable, potentially causing
their collapse (Muller.2007:250). Therefore building resilience into water management
systems is critical, if the needs of economic water users are to be met (Muller.2007:250).
A different approach to water management
In Tamil Nadu state, India, the state has had a severe water crisis, and water availability in
2006 was less than 500 m per capita per year, well below the 1000 m/capita/year,
Falkenmark indicator figure, signalling absolute water scarcity (Bhatia, Briscoe, Malik,
Misra, Palainisami & Harshadeep.2006:21). Severe water scarcity and droughts in the
lower Cauvery delta, disputes with neighbouring states over the allocation of inter-state

water, inadequate raw water supply for Chennai city, dramatic reductions in groundwater
tables and pollution threats to scarce water supplies, are just some of the symptoms of the
water scarce ill Tamil Nadu, which has to support 60 million people of which 55 percent
urban (Bhatia et al.2006:21).
The state government of Tamil Nadu, responded to these crises primarily through attempts
at supply- side augmentation, from within and beyond the state, coupled some demand-side
management interventions (Bhatia et al.2006:22). The state government had four
approaches in addressing these crises. Firstly, the state attempted to capture a larger
proportion of rainfall by constructing large and small dams and water harvesting structures,
but they were only in effect robbing Peters, to create water entitlements for themselves
(Bhatia et al.2006:21). Secondly, the state tried to bring more water into the state, by
holding on to water obtained historically from neighbouring states and getting more water
from both inter-state (Cauvery) and peninsular

rivers (Krishna and Godavari), which

proved unsuccessful (Bhatia et al.2006:22). Thirdly, the state augmented water supplies for
cities and industries, by desalination and the treating and re-use of wastewater,


example industrial reverse osmosis plants in Chennai. Although it has had limited success,
it is unlikely to play a major role in the short term (Bhatia et al.2006:22). Lastly, the state
government tried to rehabilitate and modernize tanks through both internal and external
funding, but proved to be difficult to implement since it required active local community
participation (Bhatia et al.2006:22). Repeated droughts, furthermore, has forced the state,
to advise farmers to adopt less water intensive cropping patterns and irrigation systems
(Bhatia et al.2006:22).
The local water supply authority, Metrowater, in Chennai, on the other hand, had a very
different and unique approach to these crises. Metrowater noticed that neighbouring
farmers in the AK aquifer had been using large amounts of water, while Chennai had
severe water shortages (Bhatia et al.2006:22). Even though Tamil Nadus water policy
contained the hierarchy of water priorities stating that water for human use has highest
priority, Metrowater could not simply confiscate the farmers water. Instead, Metrowater
followed an approach where they made forbearance payments to willing farmers, who
agreed to forego their customary use of water and to allow the city to use their water
(Bhatia et al.2006:22). This approach, although being imperfect, was a breakthrough and it
could replace the insufficient supply-side solutions or approaches attempted by the Tamil
Nadu state government (Bhatia et al.2006:22-23). Metrowaters approach abandoned the
traditional command and control system in favour of a flexible willing seller/willing
buyer approach, in which there was voluntary, consensual movement of water from low to
high value uses The proof of its success is in the pudding, with farmers queuing to sell
their water in return for assured revenues, whilst most still growing crops and Metrowater

being able to buy water at a fraction of the price it would cost them to develop alternative
sources (Bhatia et al.2006:23).
The soft option to address water scarcity
In coming decades, water will become a major constraint for agriculture, particularly in
Africa and Asia. In addressing this problem, major institutional adjustments will have to
be made (Risjberman. 2006:328) Gleick (in Risjberman.2006:328), recommends a soft
path to address water scarcity, focussing on increasing overall water productivity (the
conversion rate of water into food). Risjberman (2006:341), mentions traditional
infrastructure, particularly dams, to address water scarcity, by increasing human control
over water resources and to make a larger share of the total renewable water available for
human use. Water infrastructure; however, have been severely critiqued over the last
several decades (Risjberman.2006:341).
Well-established literature calls for a shift from supply management to demand
management, which has led to the integrated water management movement, which has











(Risjberman.2006:341). Proposals that have come from this movement towards integrated
resource manage, are the establishment of water user associations as to involve users
more in the management of water; the pricing of water to make it a more trade-able
commodity, although it has been highly controversial; and the establishment of river-basin
authorities, that will integrate governments fragmented responsibilities into a single
authority responsible for a hydrographically defined area, namely the river basin; with
limited success (Risjberman.2006:341).
Gleicks (in Risjberman.2006:342) soft path for water, focusses on the overall
improvement of water productivity, rather than seeking new supplies of water, as the
answer to water scarcity. The 1970s oil crisis led to many debates on energy scarcity and
eventually to significant increases in energy efficiency, encompassing a shift for economies
to become less energy intensive, requiring a similar shift in water efficiency
(Risjberman.2006:342). The U.S. has been exemplary in this regard, increasing their GDP/
m of water withdrawn, from US$ 6.50 (1900-1970), to US$ 15 since 1970 (Risjberman.
2006:342). Furthermore, national water withdrawals, in the U.S. have stabilized and water
use per capita has fallen (Risjberman.2006:342). The IWMI (International Water
Management Institute) is also calling for increased water productivity, specifically for
water in agriculture, very similar to Gleicks proposal (Risjberman.2006:342). By far the
largest consumer of water is the cultivation of food. IWMI predicts that the world will have
to provide an additional 22 percent of primary water to meet future food needs by 2025,

nearly three quarters of which will be for irrigation (Overseas Development

The call for increased water productivity has culminated in various publications and
research initiatives, focussing on increasing water productivity for food production and
rural livelihoods. The CGIAR (Consultative Group on International agricultural Research),
answered the call by two initiatives, namely a Comprehensive Assessment of Water
Management in Agriculture and a Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF), a major
effort by the international community to address water scarcity in agriculture (Risjberman.
2006:342) In developing countries, water for agriculture, that is water used to grow food
needed, consumes 70-90 percent of the total water use and with global population expected
to double over the next 40 years, more food is needed, using less water (www.

The CPWF is an international multi-institutional research initiative to improve the

productivity of water in river basins that are pro-poor, gender equitable and
environmentally sustainable (www. The CPWF offers a new approach
through the paradigm of water productivity to natural resources and management research,
working towards achieving: food security for all at household level; poverty alleviation
through increased sustainable livelihoods in rural and peri-urban areas; and environmental
security through improved water quality, and maintenance of water related ecosystems and
biodiversity (
Water scarcity in South-Africa
South-Africa is in a severe water crisis. South-Africa is one of about 30 countries, who are
considered water stressed, of which 20 countries face absolute water scarcities of less than
500 m per capita per year (Overseas Development Institute.2002:1). In 2000, the IWMI
concluded that by 2025, 33% of the world population, or two billion people, will be living
in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity and will be joined by Pakistan, South
Africa and large parts of India and China . (Overseas Development Institute.2002:1).
According to Treurnicht (2008:5), South-Africa can only accommodate 80 million people
with optimal utilization. At the current population growth rate, its only a matter of time
before South-Africa cannot supply in its populations needs.
South-Africas current National Resource management Policy framework has been praised
by many international organisations for its commitment to social justice. The 1997 Water
Services Act laid the basis for the 2001 Free Basic Water services program
(Thompson.2005:487). However, the government continues to emphasise the need for
more water storage in South-Africa, and the BWP proves governments strong bias towards


large dam strategy as a vehicle for industrialized development in big cities, and this bias
shows no sign of changing, despite South-Africas constitutional commitment to access to
water and accompanying legislation, providing for basic services and free water
(Thompson .2005:488).
There has been a strong focus on Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) since
the 1990s, taking river basins as a starting point for water management, constructing a
version of good governance of water, based on notions of decentralisation, user
participation and demand management. IWRM has begun to dominate national policy
making in regions including Southern Africa, where recent policy and management
strategies of South Africa make frequent reference to the idea (Overseas Development
The world is in a water crisis, without a doubt, and due to projected population growth and
the nature of water being non-renewable, the future seems quite bleak and all of this is now
being exacerbated by climate change due to global warming. Participation in water
management processes like the BWP were looked at and it was concluded that governmentled participatory processes, may neutralize effective resistance by social movements and
can use water scarcity as an excuse to get what they want, as in the case of the BWP, the
building of the Berg Water Dam for industrialization purposes in urban areas. Wetter is not
always better was a principle that was explored in the Congo basin case study with regards
to the effect of climate change, in this case, increased precipitation, on indigenous
knowledge practices, i.e. slash and burn farming in the Congo basin. The result was that
increased rainfall will render indigenous farming practices untenable. In dealing with the
water crisis, Mullers improved water management to improve urban resilience, the unique
and flexible, willing seller/willing buyer approach by Metrowater, Chennai in the Tamil
Nadu case study and Gleicks soft path approach of increased water productivity as
opposed to increased supplies were explored in detail. Muller discussed infrastructural and
institutional mechanisms as weapons in the hands of water management to improve urban
resilience against water related risks. The Tamil Nadu case study explored approaches by
the local government to the states severe water crisis, which had limited success and the
Metrowater approach that is highly successful. Gleicks soft path of improved water
productivity tends to be the best solution in solving the water crisis. South-Africas water
crisis is very real, but it seems that government policy and legislation is geared towards
addressing these issues, at least on paper. Water scarcity is a very serious problem and is
now being further compounded by climate changes and the future will look very dry if we
dont act now, act decisively and act collectively.



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