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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Transitioning towards water supply diversification : possibilities for groundwater in Cape Town, South Africa Luker, Emma


Due in part to negative climate change impacts on water availability, and the fact that urban populations across the globe are growing, cities are experiencing increasing stress on their water resources. Therefore, new options for urban water demand and supply management are being considered to address this concern. In the case of Cape Town, South Africa, overall water demand is increasing despite a successful water demand management campaign, while water supplies are dwindling. These conditions are aggravated by a recent severe drought that began in 2015. Transitions towards additional bulk water supplies are therefore needed, and the City has addressed this through plans for future water supply diversification in the form of large-scale groundwater development. However, given the historical focus on surface water infrastructure in Cape Town, there are significant obstacles in adding new sources, such as aquifers, into the supply chain. This Masters’ of Science thesis will present the findings of a research study that was aimed at analyzing the motivations, barriers and possibilities for groundwater governance in Cape Town, with particular attention to the expert perspective. Findings are based on three months of fieldwork in Cape Town, where data was collected through in-depth interviews with water experts and professionals involved in the Cape Town water sector, as well as field observations and water policy and document analysis. Chapter 2 of this work outlines the motivations and barriers for groundwater integration. This chapter emphasizes the benefits of groundwater for water security and resilience, while maintaining that fragmented roles and responsibilities to do with groundwater governance present significant challenges. Chapter 3 explores an existing groundwater scheme in Cape Town and presents three lessons learned for future groundwater policy development. Lessons learned include aquifer recharge zone protection, sufficient field operator training and consistent institutional support for groundwater knowledge leaders. The main goal of this thesis is to provide insight into the motivations and challenges associated with water supply diversification, and sustainable groundwater use in particular. These insights are relevant for broader discussions of water governance transitions in light of changing water demand and supply dynamics, as well as hydrological regime changes.

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