Water literacy of "Day Zero": Learning from a South African water crisis

Authors: Meghan McCarroll*, University of Denver
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Africa, Urban Geography
Keywords: Water Literacy, Water Security, Day Zero, Drought, Climate Change, South Africa
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

From 2015 to 2017, Cape Town received below average rainfall that led to extreme drought, drastically low reservoirs, and widespread panic about water supply. City officials advertised "Day Zero" as the day the city would run out of water and pushed one of the most ambitious water conservation programs in existence. Increasingly strict water restrictions were enacted, with the strictest limiting residents to 50 liters per person per day. Water conservation was advertised with signs in every bathroom, on billboards and street graffiti, and all over media outlets and social media accounts. Citizens were encouraged to report and shame water-hogging neighbors. Inherent to water conservation is the concept of water literacy, or one’s knowledge and held perceptions about water that leads to conserving behaviors and actions. A strong water literacy is linked to trust in water managers, support for water projects and investments, and participation in water conserving behaviors. While Cape Town was able to avoid "Day Zero" thanks to conservation efforts, forced rationing, and a timely 2018 rain season, climate change predictions of increased rainfall variability, increased temperatures, and larger drying trends in the region make "Day Zero" likely to reappear. Thus, this proposal is for an analysis of the weaknesses and strengths of Capetonians' water literacy levels during and after the "Day Zero" crisis. Better understanding weaknesses can help Cape Town improve their conservation strategies for future droughts, while acknowledging strengths can provide direction for other cities worldwide who are facing a similar water-stressed future.

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