Project

Learning from Cape Town’s water crisis

As part of our work to make resilience tangible, practical and relevant, we supported the completion of a suite of in-depth interviews with key individuals involved in the response to the 2017-2018 water crisis in Cape Town, and the development of film-based learning modules distilling lessons from the event.

The Cape Town Drought Response Learning Initiative

The Resilience Shift is delighted to have been able to partner with the Cape Town Drought Response Learning Initiative. We believe this innovative approach to understanding a major infrastructure crisis carries many lessons for cities and infrastructure professionals around the world.

Conceptualised and executed by project partners Peter Willis and Victor van Aswegen, the initiative is the pre-eminent source for learnings from the Cape Town water crisis, and a groundbreaking template for post-crisis learning globally.

With 39 in-depth filmed interviews, a toolkit of 56 film-based learning modules with accompanying reading resources, totalling more than 50 hours of film material to watch, the project sets a new standard for the documentation and distillation of critical lessons from infrastructure crisis events, and making these easily accessible to a wide audience.

Go to project website

Accessing the resources

A user account to view these resources can be set up for free by registering on the Cape Town Drought Response Learning Initiative site.

If you have an existing Resilience Shift account, you can still log in here. You should then be automatically be logged in to our partner site and can view the resources there.

If you already have a separate CTDRLI user account, you can log in directly on that site as well.

You must have a user account to view these resources, which you can set up for free on the Learning Initiative site.

Aims

During 2017-2018, in the grip of a multiyear drought of unprecedented severity, the South African city of Cape Town suffered a water crisis so severe that its four million residents faced the prospect of ‘Day Zero’. On this day, water supplies to most households and businesses would have been turned off and residents would have had to collect daily water rations from central collection points.

In the end, catastrophe was averted, but a wide range of valuable lessons can be learnt from the crisis, relating both to avoiding the escalation of drought into water crisis, and to managing crisis when it does become reality.

The project aimed in the first instance to capture – for the benefit of a global community of practitioners and scholars and society broadly – the learning that took place at personal and organisational level under the high-stress conditions of the crisis. Shortly after the crisis a wealth of recollections, observations, assessments, reflections, insights and points of view on the subject was recorded that would otherwise have been lost, now all gathered in one place.

The project then aimed to identify the major themes and key learnings that emerged from the crisis experience and the extensive interview material assembled, and to distil these to the essence in a user-friendly and easily digestible format to promote dissemination of the valuable lessons to a wide audience globally.

The overarching aim of the project is to promote systems thinking within cities, water companies and other stakeholders through informed reflection on the Cape Town case study. By articulating the interplay of social and environmental factors with critical infrastructure systems in an engaging format, the project aims to deepen an understanding of the multidimensional and complex dynamics – technical, financial, social, political, regulatory, fiscal, environmental – of infrastructure systems, particularly when under stress.

See Learning Outputs

Project leaders

Peter Willis
Co-lead: Cape Town Drought Response Learning Initiative

Peter is a facilitator with an interest in system change and leadership

Victor van Aswegen
Co-lead: Cape Town Drought Response Learning Initiative

Victor is a filmmaker with a background in economics, development and finance

siddharth nadkarny

Siddharth Nadkarny
Project Leader for The Resilience Shift

Siddharth is an urban planner with global experience on multi-disciplinary projects that enhance resilience for vulnerable urban communities.

How are we doing this?

By partnering with the Cape Town Drought Response Learning Initiative, an innovative, citizen-led project to develop products to share the learning from Cape Town’s 2017-2018 water crisis.

What are the outputs?

Nearly one hundred film outputs and supplementary learning material, including 39 in-depth filmed interviews and three curated series of 56 learning outputs, presenting a distillation of key lessons, made available on the Resilience Shift and CTDRLI websites.

These films can be used as discussion prompts for events as we have done in the below examples

Event Video Highlights

This short highlights video is of the London Climate Action Week screening and panel discussion about what cities can learn from Cape Town's water crisis. It was an opportunity to screen some of the interviews and gather feedback about their usefulness.

Event Page

Cape Town | Day Zero event page has more details about the event at London Climate Action Week where we screened interviews from Cape Town, including speaker profiles.

Event Report

Cape Town | Day Zero event report – Learning from Cape Town’s water crisis - this short blog contains a report from the film screening and panel discussion event at London Climate Action Week.

Event Report

“Humans do our best when our backs are to the wall” - Lessons from Cape Town’s water crisis were shared at Scotland Climate Week with a plethora of interesting discussion points identified as relevant to the context of Scottish water governance