Climate change adaptation in a developing country context: The case of urban water supply in Cape Town

Climate change is expected to affect water supply if extreme climatic events and unpredictable rainfall patterns become more prevalent. Bulk infrastructure tends to determine urban communities' vulnerability to water supply and this infrastructure tends to be managed by the government. This suggests that water supply adaptation will require government capacity and commitment—often lacking in the developing country context. This article focuses on the processes impeding and facilitating adaptation to climate change within the urban water sector in the City of Cape Town, South Africa. The case study explores water management at the city scale, highlighting how actors currently respond to water stress and the challenges they face in integrating climate change information into water management. The case study results suggest that the best ways to facilitate adaptation are to focus on areas where development needs and responses to climate change impacts are connected, and focus support on adaptation processes rather than outcomes. This approach is likely to ensure that climate change responses are not seen as competing with non-climate development priorities, but as part of the solution to them. This is likely to create incentives for the global South to respond to climate change.

Associated space

Cape Town

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