Cape Town has found a way to provide clean and safe water to its growing population even as the region becomes increasingly water stressed.

The Challenge

Cape Town is facing the dual challenge of increased water demand, due to population growth, urbanization, and economic development, along with increased water scarcity, a consequence of climate change. This wide-ranging water management program consists of technical adjustments as well as social and behavior changes to limit water losses while helping low-income residents.

 

The Solution

Faced with looming water scarcity due to changing environmental conditions and population growth, South Africa’s second-largest city has committed itself to a comprehensive program of water conservation and water demand management aimed at minimizing water waste and promoting efficient water use. The extensive program targets both technical and behavioral changes, including public awareness campaigns about water use efficiency, the introduction of a water tariff designed to encourage water savings, the promotion of the use of recycled water for irrigation, as well as a range of technical interventions to minimize water losses.

Particularly vital and socially inclusive elements include offering free plumbing repairs for low-income households and training “community plumbers.” More than 4,000 households have been visited for leak detections and repairs, and 258 km of water pipes have been replaced in order to reduce pipe bursts and water leaks. So far, the program has been a success, as water demand hasgrown at an average of 1.78% compared to an average growth of more than 4% before implementation. This is despite population growth of more than 30% between 2001 and 2011.

 

Environmental Benefits – Recycled water is used to irrigate public parks and green areas and 6% of all potable water is now recycled.

Social Benefits – 10,500 liters of free water are provided each month to impoverished households in the city.

Economic Benefits – This project has postponed and possibly eliminated the need for expensive capital infrastructure projects, including an additional water supply scheme, which would have cost $85 million – five times more than this project.

Health Benefits – This program enables the city to provide safe, high-quality drinking water by ensuring that treatment plants are able to meet the water needs of residents.

 

About Cities100

Presented by C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), Sustainia and Realdania – Cities100 showcases leading solutions to urban climate challenges in ten sectors, ranging from solid waste management to transportation.

Available online and in print, Cities100 provides stakeholders an accessible format to explore achievable solutions for climate action in cities, and will be a useful tool for relevant groups ranging from impact investors and development organizations, to mayors and city governments.  You can access the full Cities100 2015 publication online here.