Sustainable water tariffs and inequality in post-drought Cape Town: exploring perceptions of fairness
Fair allocation of diminishing natural resources is increasingly central to sustainability. This includes the allocation of costs related to providing access, such as dams, pipes and pumps delivering clean water. Water tariffs are often designed to both recover these costs, meet social needs of water services to the poor, and incentivise conservation in dry times. However, strained public finances, prolonged droughts and economic inequality can undermine these goals and force prioritisations that many see as unfair. This happened in Cape Town, South Africa, during its 2015–2018 water crisis.
This study investigates what residents in three different socioeconomic contexts view as fair water tariffs 1 year after the crisis. Using Q method, we describe five distinct perspectives on fairness: ‘the Insurer’, ‘the Individualist’, ’the Bureaucrat’, ‘the Humanitarian’, and ‘the Prepper’. These, we argue, can help distinguish between different ideas of what fairness implies, and what is required to promote it. We exemplify this by examining how viewpoints might have been shaped by specific communities’ experiences during and after the apartheid state’s discriminatory segregation policies. Using distributive, procedural and interactional interpretations of fairness, we discuss how the complex layers of poverty, inequality, mistrust, privilege and discrimination might produce different experiences and ideas of who should pay for and benefit from water services. Using these insights, we also reflect on the merits of tariffs that emphasise cost recovery and resource conservation over social needs, and the risks this poses for growing informal settlements in climate-stressed cities of the global South.
Research news | 2024-02-20
Having good neighbours and few top predators make predatory fish populations more resilient
A regime shift is gradually spreading through the archipelagos of the Swedish Baltic Sea coast, where shallow bays, previously dominated by pike and perch have one by one become dominated by one of their prey species, the three-spined stickleback.
Research news | 2024-02-08
Eating new plant-based foods can be good for the environment, your health and your economy
Replacing animal-source foods with plant-based alternatives or whole foods decreases environmental impact, meets nutrition recommendations, and can be cost-competitive with the current average Swedish diet
Research news | 2024-01-29
Bird AI and sailing drones – green game changers for marine ecosystems
Groups of guillemots on an island in the Baltic Sea have unknowingly inspired how marine research can be done. Two AI-powered research projects can change how to monitor marine ecosystems – and potentially manage them in real-time
Research news | 2024-01-24
Centralised social networks can hinder innovation by making decision-making too similar
Social systems where influence is centred around one or two individuals can lead to pack mentality and groupthink in farming communities
Research news | 2024-01-23
Planetary Commons: Fostering global cooperation to safeguard critical Earth system functions
We should look at tipping elements of the Earth system as global commons, argue researchers in a new paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Research news | 2024-01-22
Soy: A world journey from success to uncertainty
From a bean valued for its multitude of functions in ancient China to one of the most traded agricultural commodities of the modern world: the soybean has gone through dramatic changes throughout the millennia.