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Social inequalities lead to urban water crises more than environmental factors


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Rich elites with large swimming pools and well-maintained lawns leave poor communities without basic access to water in cities around the world.

New research published today finds that social inequalities lead to urban water crises more than environmental factors, such as climate change or urban population growth.

The study published in the journal Nature sustainabilityit was found that urban elites consume water excessively for personal leisure, such as filling swimming pools, watering their gardens, or washing their cars.

The research team focused on Cape Town, South Africa, where the urban water crisis means many disadvantaged people live without taps or toilets and use their limited water for drinking and hygiene.

They also highlighted similar cases in 80 cities around the world, including London, Miami, Barcelona, ​​Beijing, Tokyo, Melbourne, Istanbul, Cairo, Moscow, Bangalore, Chennai, Jakarta, Sydney, Maputo, Harare, Sao Paulo, Mexico City and Rome.

Professor Hannah Klock, a hydrologist at the University of Reading who co-authored the study, said: “Climate change and population growth mean that water is becoming a more valuable resource in big cities, but we have shown that social inequality is the biggest problem for poorer people getting water for their daily needs.” .

“More than 80 large cities around the world have experienced water shortages due to drought and unsustainable water use over the past 20 years, but our projections show that this crisis could only get worse as the gap between rich and poor widens in many parts of the world.

“This illustrates the close links between social, economic and environmental inequality. Ultimately, everyone will suffer the consequences unless we develop fairer ways of sharing water in cities.”

Water management ‘inadequate’

The research, which was led by Dr Elisa Saveli from Uppsala University, Sweden, together with co-authors from the University of Reading, UK, Vrije University Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and the University of Manchester, UK, used a household water use analysis model for urban residents of Cape Town to understand how different social classes consume water. .

They identified five social groups, ranging from “the elite” (people who live in spacious homes with large gardens and swimming pools) to “informal residents” (people who tend to live in shacks on the outskirts of town).

Elite and upper-middle-income households make up less than 14% of Cape Town’s population but use more than half (51%) of the water that the entire city consumes. Informal and low-income households account for 62% of the city’s population, but consume only 27% of Cape Town’s water.

Currently, researchers highlight that efforts to manage water supplies in water-scarce cities focus mostly on technical solutions, such as developing more efficient water infrastructure. The research team suggests that these reactive strategies, which focus on maintaining and increasing water supplies, are insufficient and counterproductive. Instead, a more active approach, aimed at reducing unsustainable water consumption among elites, would be more effective, they suggest.

more information:
Elisa Saveli, Urban Water Crises Driven by Elites’ Unsustainable Consumption, Nature sustainability (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41893-023-01100-0. www.nature.com/articles/s41893-023-01100-0

Provided by the University of Reading

the quote: Social Inequities Drive Urban Water Crises More Than Environmental Factors (2023, April 10) Retrieved April 10, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-social-inequisions-urban-crises-environmental.html

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