Partnering for Water Solutions: Evolution of the Cape Town Conference

Save the date for the W12 Congress on the escalating water crisis from January 27 – 31, 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa!

The scope and direction of the Institute for Ecological Civilization (EcoCiv)’s upcoming conference in Cape Town has evolved and expanded significantly over the past few months from the academic conference originally planned for September 2019, jointly run by the University of the Western Cape. We are excited now to share the management partnership for the W12 Congress with the South African non-profit organization, Save our Schools (SOSNPO).

SOSNPO is an impact-based organization in Cape Town with a mission to improve water equity within communities, primarily focusing on sanitation and hygiene in schools, by providing sustainable water solutions through partnerships with businesses and other organizations. They are industry and youth focused, which is a fitting addition to our academic conference.

Prior to our collaboration, SOS – NPO planned to run a separate, much larger and multimedia focused event, also in September 2019. Upon realizing this significant overlap in not only logistics, but also the distinct focus on city officials and the final deliverable of a Water Protocol to guide global water resource management decisions, we decided to join forces, combining our separate conferences to create one event in January 2020. The new W12 Congress is the first of what we hope are many global events that bring together city leaders, industry experts, academics, and youth to share best practices and create a Water Protocol, valuable for years to come.

The key responsibility for the EcoCiv team remains the creation of this Water Protocol, ensuring that it is not only academically robust but also designed in a manner that is useful for industry and city officials who need to make big decisions quickly. We are working with experts from the University of the Western Cape, University of Cape Town, and Stellenbosch University to create this Water Protocol through “Task Teams” and a Water Protocol Working Group. A scholar from one of these three South African Universities leads each task team and aims to address water issues from the perspective of Natural Science, Economics, Politics, Technical Science, Civil Society, and Social Science.

Each Task Team has a lead convener who is already working on inviting other South African and international water experts to join their Task Team. These teams are divided by sector, but the key value-add for them will likely be the breakaway sessions that allow for cross-sector engagement and planning.

We are particularly enthusiastic about the increased reach of the collaborative W12 Congress and the compatibility of our new partner organizations. The W12 Congress has the potential to shape how cities around the world who are facing extreme water shortages manage their most valuable resource. We as EcoCiv also have the potential to reach a much broader audience with our message through this new collaboration.

Photo: Widad Sirkhotte, C.c. 2.0 sa

The global water crisis is critical and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Although Cape Town was able to avoid “Day Zero” of water in 2018, when pipes throughout the city were predicted to run dry and residents of all classes would get their allocated water at designated pick up points, this reality is still not far off for Cape Town and many other cities around the world. Cape Town’s implementation of strict water usage rules was a major factor in why they were able to avoid Day Zero, but such rules are not sufficient for the long-term; societal shifts resulting from solutions derived by cross-sectoral collaboration are desperately needed.

Issues of water shortages can typically be traced to a combination of climate change and management causes, but their solutions require a much more intricate methodology that is underscored by a rights-based approach to water access and a deep understanding of water’s ties to life in distinct and important ways, from food production to hygiene and cooking – all looking and planning for at least thirty years in the future.

The W12 Congress will focus on solutions to the issue of our global water crisis in a manner that is innovative and intersectional, but also deep in terms of sector expertise and broad in its scope of participants – from academics to city officials to industry and youth. We are excited to create this Congress, the first of its kind, with its simultaneously broad scope, clear focus and distinct deliverables.

We will soon be launching social media and an updated website for the W12 Congress. Follow us on @W12_Congress on Instagram and Twitter and stay tuned for our Facebook Page.

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