Mismanagement of water resources has been an issue even in cities as rich and seemingly as prepared as Cape Town. Results from a recent study published in the journal Nature Sustainability showed that the two richest groups of people in the city were found to have been consuming more than half of the total water resources despite making up only 15% of the population. The water consumption patterns of wealthy citizens, in particular, were found to have been unsustainable, placing a heavy burden on the city’s resources.
At the same time, the research studied went on to say that other cities around the world had also come under duress due to water shortages, exacerbated mainly by extreme weather conditions like droughts and El Nino events. Some cities that had experienced water scarcity before are Miami, Mexico City, London, Beijing and Sydney.
In the most devastating cases, such as the 2018 Cape Town crisis, the study found out that in a bid to avert ‘day zero’, authorities implemented water restriction policies most of which affected the poorer, lower-income groups rather than wealthy citizens who should have also had their consumption minimized.
In the long term, the same wealthy members of society were found to have found ways to tap into ‘other’ water resources, such as deep private boreholes, in a bid to supplement the public supply. However, these were found to have posed significant threat to the long-term water sustainability of the city as a whole.
The lead author of the study, Elisa Savelli, went on to state that these kind of inequalities must always be taken into consideration whenever policies to control water scarcity are being formulated. She stated that other proactive measures must be put in place to prevent water wastage with an emphasis on shared responsibilities and justice.
It is with these facts in mind that the UN warned of an impending global water crisis due to the uneven demand and supply of this precious resource. It estimated that 2 billion people would be affected by 2050 if steps to avert the crisis were not made.
The report provided by Uppsala University in Sweden and Nature Sustainability serves as an important reminder of the need to put proactive strategies and policies in place to prevent water resource mismanagement in cities. The key players mentioned in the article are Elisa Savelli who is a researcher at Uppsala University in Sweden who is known for her research and expertise on water sustainability. The other key player mentioned is the United Nations, an intergovernmental organization that works to promote international cooperation and human rights.