The Socioeconomic Demographics of Water Use During Drought: Using Cape Town, South Africa as a Model

Authors: Sally Louise Roscoe*, Hofstra University
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Africa, Sustainability Science
Keywords: water, drought, Cape Town, climate change, mitigation
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Cape Town, South Africa is a diverse city whose urban design is still impacted by its discriminatory apartheid legislation that formally ended in 1994. More recently, the city’s socioeconomic disparity is increasingly evident due to the severe water crisis that began in 2015. This has created a strain on its potable water supply and the wellbeing of the city’s residents. To evaluate the inequalities associated with the drought in Cape Town, a spatial analysis of the city’s demographics and water usage was conducted using GIS data collected from the South African Census and Cape Town’s government. Theses outcomes were interpreted to determine areas of water inequalities which exhibited a strong correlation between both race and income. It was observed that the overall water use of affluent communities generally decreased in correlation with the imposed water restrictions. To gain an international perspective, a survey of residents in North America and Europe will be conducted to gather data from the viewpoint of the people from a developed western country regarding any future potential drought restrictions. The results will assess the potential of using Cape Town’s drought restrictions as a model for hypothetical water shortages in the future. This research is significant, as water droughts are not only an environmental issue, but also an equity concern, as access to potable water is considered to be a human right. The importance of this research will continue to increase, as more droughts are expected in the future due to anthropogenic climate change.

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