Towards ethical water management: Piloting an ethics methodology on the Cape Flats Aquifer in the Philippi Horticultural Area

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Leanne Seeliger

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Water policy and legislation in South Africa was welcomed as ground-breaking by the international community shortly after the advent of democracy. However, despite the progressive nature of the National Water Act and the principles of Integrated Water Resource Management it adopted, it has failed to bring about sustained transformation in water management. This paper argues that it has failed because policymakers assumed the existence of social cohesion and shared values in divided communities, and that communities were ready to engage in multi-stakeholder platforms on water management where diverse values were prioritised and negotiated. Using the contested Philippi Horticultural Area located on the Cape Flats Aquifer in Cape Town as a case study, this paper introduces an ethics methodology involving individual interviews, multi-stakeholder feedback workshops, and a proposed set of joint interventions. The methodology requires community members to identify their core values around development and water, jointly prioritise what this means to them in terms of community development, and then move towards a preliminary action plan to build social cohesion and improved water management in their particular context. It is proposed that if communities move towards future solutions, after deep reflection on jointly shared core values, they are better able to live with past conflict and opposing points of view. The paper documents the ethics methodology process undertaken and evaluates its potential for developing a supplementary bottom-up approach to water management that would improve community engagement in government-led water policy and legislation processes in South Africa.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Society for Ecological Restoration