City of Melbourne (1997 – 2009)
Australia faced their worst ever drought from 1997-2009. The south-eastern city of Melbourne, with a population of 4.3 million saw dam levels drop to 25.6%.
Through collaborative governance and policy change Melbourne was able to succeed from the grip of the drought:
- Prior to the drought, legislation was passed that stipulated integration of government response in the case of a drought. This instantiated a trickle-down flow of funding from federal to state to city projects, with a regional manager having authority to force all levels of government to cooperate.
- Millions were invested infrastructure including a desalination plant (which has never been used)
- Rebate programs for residential greywater systems
- Government investment in recycled water systems in the urban and agricultural sector
Following these changes, residents and businesses reduced their water use by almost 50% from 1997.
Cape Town’s response
The case of Melbourne highlights some shortcomings of the response to the drought in Cape Town.
- Where legislation for a coordinated government response was put in place prior to the drought, the DOC has only just come into action.
- While Cape Town hopes to have 3 desalination plants running by March, to generate 16 million L of water per day, this will not even come close to covering the current usage of 500 million L per day. This will be partially funded by a drought levy to be introduced this year.
- Governments have not offered and tax savings or subsidies for rainwater tanks.
- Recycled water systems have not been implemented, and in fact more than 30% of South Arica’s drinking water is being lost via leaking pipes, and theft.
The stark differences in government response signals the weak institutional capacity of South African governments. It seems that residents are taking matters into their own hands. Borehole drilling has soared in the Western Cape, with the most popular drilling company being booked for the entire year in 2017, and the number of vertical water tanks sold has increased by 186% since October 2016.