The urban water metabolism of Cape Town : towards becoming a water sensitive city

Atkins, Ffion ; Flugel, Tyrel ; Hugman, Rui (2021-05-28)

CITATION: Atkins, F., Flugel, T. & Hugman, R. 2021. The urban water metabolism of Cape Town : towards becoming a water sensitive city. South African Journal of Science, 117(5/6):8630, doi:10.17159/sajs.2021/8630.

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To improve its resilience to increasing climatic uncertainty, the City of Cape Town (the City) aims to become a water sensitive city by 2040. To undertake this challenge, a means to measure progress is needed that quantifies the urban water systems at a scale that enables a whole-of-system approach to water management. Using an urban water metabolism framework, we (1) provide a first city-scale quantification of the urban water cycle integrating its natural and anthropogenic flows, and (2) assess alternative water sources (indicated in the New Water Programme) and whether they support the City towards becoming water sensitive. We employ a spatially explicit method with particular consideration to apply this analysis to other African or Global South cities. At the time of study, centralised potable water demand by the City amounted to 325 gigalitres per annum, 99% of which was supplied externally from surface storage, and the remaining ~1% internally from groundwater storage (Atlantis aquifer). Within the City’s boundary, runoff, wastewater effluent and groundwater represent significant internal resources which could, in theory, improve supply efficiency and internalisation as well as hydrological performance. For the practical use of alternative resources throughout the urban landscape, spatially explicit insight is required regarding the seasonality of runoff, local groundwater storage capacity and the quality of water as it is conveyed through the complex urban landscape. We suggest further research to develop metrics of urban water resilience and equity, both of which are important in a Global South context.

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