Cities Facing Escalating Water Shortages: Lessons Learned and Strategies Moving Forward

By Jesse Knapp

The City of Cape Town, South Africa experienced in 2017 and 2018 a water crisis so acute that they became the first city in the world to face the possibility of running out of drinking water. Through a combination of water restrictions and techniques for increasing supply, the city was able to avert that outcome, but the threat remains, and not for Cape Town alone: a growing number of cities around the world face chronic water shortages. As the climate changes in the coming decades, water availability will become an existential question for much of the world’s population.

In response to this escalating water crisis, the Institute for Ecological Civilization has partnered with the University of the Western Cape, the Stellenbosch University Water Institute, and the City of Cape Town to convene leaders and experts from cities around the world. The Cape Town summit will lead to a set of recommendations on how to avert as well as endure water shortages and is expected to be the start of a global movement.

The conference will include plenary sessions with presentations by delegations from each city designed to highlight features both specific to the cities they represent and common to all cities facing water shortages. These presentations will alternate with breakaway sessions dedicated to areas of expertise related to water availability: government policy, economics, technical sciences, natural sciences, social sciences, and civil society. During the breakaway sessions, experts will consider similarities and differences between participant cities and work across sectors to develop a vision for water management in a sustainable society.

EcoCiv’s distinctive focus is on long-term prospects for sustainable communities. What will cities have to look like in order to prosper in climate conditions radically different from those we have until recently enjoyed? Significant changes will be necessary, and some of them will involve the way we manage, transport, and use water. The Cape Town summit will be a crucial step toward this urgently needed global transformation.   

Header Photo: Pixabay

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