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Resilience lessons learned from Cape Town's severe water shortage

A new technical paper written by Junaid Seria, Head of Cat Model R&D and Governance at SCOR Global P&C, provides some useful resilience lessons resulting from the water crisis that hit Cape Town’s communities and businesses earlier this year.

The issue of water security and supply management is expected to be a growing threat to businesses in many areas of the world. In fact, by as early as 2030, global demand for fresh water could outstrip supply by more than 40 percent if no changes are made to how we manage water.

Cape Town’s recent water crisis provides useful insights to help understand the interplay between climate change, socio-economic factors and water supply when assessing the resilience of cities to natural disasters.

The technical paper, entitled ‘Water security: the case of Cape Town’s severe water shortage’ captures the following lessons:

  • A strong dependence on a single water source tests water supply in drought years and could cause significant strain during consecutive drought years.
  • Even with redundancy, water supply systems could fail when in extreme climate scenarios.
  • Demand will continue to outstrip supply unless significant interventions are implemented.
  • Water shortages can emerge due to several reasons. Water management departments need to conduct counterfactual studies of past water crises that have affected other large cities to better learn how to plan for these disasters.
  • When a crisis looms, demand can be managed efficiently. Cities should assess the tools employed by the City of Cape Town and local communities to cut demand.
  • Droughts are challenging to predict.
  • Climate change is considered a threat multiplier.

Read the document (PDF).

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