Urban water crises driven by elites’ unsustainable consumption


A new article in Nature Sustainability, cowritten by Elisa Savelli, uncovers how inequalities influence water crises and hydrological risks. 

A recently published article written by CNDS Fellow Elisa Savelli as main author, and co-authored by, among others, CNDS Director Giuliano Di Baldassarre & CNDS international collaborator Hannah Cloke, has attracted large media attention in the last week.

Using Cape Town in South Africa as a case study, they found that the richest part of the population used around 50 times more water than their poorest counterparts, mostly in non-essential activities such as swimming pools and gardning. Then, when the water crisis of 2018 struck the city after several years of drought, the poorest were left without enough water to cover even their most basic needs, as the paper concludes.

Savelli and her collegues underline the need to look beyond techno-managerial solutions, as their seem insufficient to address future water crises. Instead, the long-term socioenvironmental patterns that engender urban water crises need to be address, as they are behind the root causes of water crises in urban settings.

In view of the spread risk of water crisis in urban environments, the study by Savelli et al. offers an interdisciplinary understanding of water crises and hydrological risks that tackles some of the root causes of the challenges posed by the growing urban water demands.

They conclude that:

Our analysis confirms that the only way to preserve available water resources is by altering privileged lifestyles, limiting water use for amenities and redistributing income and water resources more equally. 

Read the entry at UU Department of Earth Science webpage

Read the media coverage in the UK in The Guardian webpage

Find the access to the article in CNDS Publications webpage 

Last modified: 2023-02-01