Cape Town: When the Worst Case Comes To Pass


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Declining water storage levels in Western Cape’s largest six dams. Courtesy Climate Systems Analysis Group

The news that Cape Town had just enough water to last until April sent shock waves throughout the world last month. It is one thing to talk about the world running out of water and another to actually read news that a city would officially run out of water on a particular date. Continue reading

Multi-purpose infrastructure is the need of the day

30BE6317-E021-4319-B4DE-6ACAF6483582By now, we all know that cities account for more than half the world’s population. Come 2050, it is expected that another 2.5 billion people will move from villages to cities. In China alone, more people that the whole population of the USA today will move into cities by 2050. These are mind-boggling numbers and present a scary picture of the future liveability of cities or rather the lack of it, especially in South and Southeast Asia.

Already, we see how a day of intense rain causes havoc with flooding. The inexorable march of climate change is bringing more intense rain at odd times or no rain at all. The ‘heat island’ effect of cities with bumper-to-bumper traffic jostling for space with humans gets accentuated during times of no rain. Continue reading

Living with floods in a warming world


As cities expand to swallow entire floodplains and coastal areas, often extending even beyond the boundaries of land to reclaim thousands of acres of waters from nature, they are becoming more vulnerable to climate change. Continue reading

Stern calls for action

In November 2006, when Nicholas Stern issued a report on the economics of climate change, the “sternness” of his predictions would not have escaped anyone. This was not a report by a climatologist, but an economist. Calling climate change the “greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen,” Mr Stern laid out the possible scenarios if global temperatures continued to rise.If no action is taken on emissions, the Stern report predicts a 75% possibility of global temperatures rising by two to three degrees. There is a 50% chance that average global temperatures could rise by 50C. Such changes would drastically alter the geography of the world. Continue reading

How will global warming affect the water sector?

Suddenly, global warming is the hot topic of discussion in news channels, papers, magazines and even tabloids. Rising temperatures, melting glaciers and extreme events have become too obvious to be missed. What’s more, a film on global warming An Inconvenient Truth has won an Oscar this year. 

But how does the climate change affect the water sector? Some studies are ongoing regarding the impact of changing temperatures and precipitation on water resources, ecosystems and river flows. However, there appear to be few or none on the impacts of these on water utilities and their assets.

It is clear that the business of water treatment and supply as well as wastewater treatment is poised at the threshold of extraordinary challenges. Rising sea levels are about to cause permanent displacement of millions of people and even animals. Due to climatic shifts, rainfall patterns are changing. Drying up of water bodies is driving up the cost of water treatment. Sudden heavy downpours such as the one witnessed in Mumbai some years back are causing serious sewer overflows. Encroaching seas are contaminating freshwater supplies. Continue reading