Learning from Gauteng’s water crisis – time for society as a whole to take responsibility
An extract of an article by Dr Kirsty Carden and Lloyd Fisher-Jeffes, published on the University of Cape Towns website, discussing the recent water shortages experienced in Gauteng.
Over the last two weeks we have followed with interest the various press responses to Gauteng’s water crisis. From warnings of future threats to the country’s economic growth, to blame shifting and outright politicking, these responses have for the most part avoided the real issue at hand. Now that the immediate crisis is over, it is time to reflect on what lessons may be learnt. By all accounts this current short-term crisis – or water shortage, as referred to by officials – was caused by the theft of power cables, which led to pump failures thus preventing reservoirs from being filled. While these ongoing thefts are unacceptable and highlight government’s inability to respond to such incidents, the real issue that this crisis has highlighted is the lack of resilience in our urban water supply systems; ie their capacity to withstand and recover from external shocks and adapt to changing circumstances. In this case the failure of the electricity supply system resulted in three major cities experiencing water shortages; considered the worst in 110 years. Fortunately, once power was re-established the crisis was solved, but what about shocks that we cannot solve so quickly?
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