Water Crisis in Cities – Cape Town
Introductory Geography, Essay Assignment
A key assessment component for GEOS1002 and GEOS1902 is your research essay. You need to write a
2000-words piece that utilises key concepts and themes taught and discussed in the lectures and
tutorials. You need to present a clear and well supported argument regarding a contemporary
geographical issue, as outlined below.
GEOS1002 students, please read the questions carefully before choosing one; note that each of these
questions deals with a different aspect of the same problem (the global water crisis). Identifying the
specific issue raised in the question is key to developing a good essay around it.
• Essays are 2000 words long (+/-10%), not including bibliography. In-text citations and direct
quotes do count towards the word limit.
• Essays must present at least 5 independently sources academic references. You are encouraged
to use the references below, as well as any of the unit’s readings as a starting point for your
research. However, in addition to these you are required to identify five references that support
your argument. Non-academic references (eg. newspaper articles, online media items, etc) can
be used, but these will not count towards the minimum 5 academic references.
• Images are discouraged and if used should be properly captioned and credited.
• Long quotations are discouraged and if uses should be properly cited and marked.
• Essays must be presented academically: Font size 12 (Times New Roman, Ariel or similar),
recommended line spacing is 1.5. Water Crisis in Cities – Cape Town.
• You are free to use any referencing style as long as you are consistent. Ensure that both in-text
citations and your bibliography are presented in the same style.
GEOS1002 essay questions
One of the world’s great challenges in the twenty-first century is how to manage the planet’s water
resources in the context of growing climate pressures. We use this challenge as the basis for essay
options for GEOS1002. You should select one of the questions below and answer it in the form of a
2000-word essay. The range of questions listed below emphasise the diverse ways in which “thinking
geographically” can provide a lens into many different aspects of the same problem.
The human right to water
The theme for the United Nations’ World Water Day 2019 was ‘Leaving No One Behind’ (see:
http://www.worldwaterday.org/theme/). This theme was aligned to ‘Sustainable Development Goal 6’,
which asks nations of the world to commit to “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water
and sanitation for all” (see: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg6). The philosophy behind these
aspirations is that access to safe water and sanitation is a human right (see:
https://www.unwater.org/water-facts/human-rights/). What are the challenges of ensuring the human
right to water, especially in the global South? In your essay, make sure to address the global challenge of
providing sustainable water services to a population that is mainly services by private companies and
the informal sector. Your essay must consider the broader development context of the region. Water Crisis in Cities – Cape Town.
Recommended readings to start with:
Bakker, K. (2007). The “commons” versus the “commodity”: Alter-globalization, anti-privatization and
the human right to water in the global south. Antipode, 39(3), 430-455.
Rodina, L. (2016). Human right to water in Khayelitsha, South Africa–Lessons from a ‘lived experiences’
perspective. Geoforum, 72, 58-66.
McCaffrey, S. C., & Neville, K. J. (2008). Small capacity and big responsibilities: Financial and legal
implications of a human right to water for developing countries. Geo. Int’l Envtl. L. Rev., 21, 679.
Wutich, A., Beresford, M., & Carvajal, C. (2016). Can informal water vendors deliver on the promise of a
human right to water? Results from Cochabamba, Bolivia. World Development, 79, 14-24.
Yates, J. S., & Harris, L. M. (2018). Hybrid regulatory landscapes: The human right to water, variegated
neoliberal water governance, and policy transfer in Cape Town, South Africa, and Accra, Ghana.
World Development, 110, 75-87.
Water crisis in cities
Over half of the world’s population lives in cities. Rapid urbanisation, experienced mainly starting the
second half of the twentieth century, brought about a range of challenges that are exasperated by the
global climate crisis. Consequently, cities all over the world are facing the threat of their taps running
dry. Most recent examples include Barcelona in 2008, Sao Palo in 2015 and Cape Town in 2017-18. In
the latter case, the city experienced a water crisis involving a threat of ‘Day Zero’, when the city’s water
reserves would go completely dry (https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/feb/03/day-zero-cape-
town-turns-off-taps). Write an essay that discusses the background to this crisis and the different
responses of local and global stakeholders at the city-level (including such actors as citizens, state
governments and international agencies). Your essay can either focus on a specific case-study (with
proper expansion on the global context) or offer a comparative discussion from various cities around the
world. Water Crisis in Cities – Cape Town.
Recommended readings to start with:
Booysen, M. J., Visser, M., & Burger, R. (2019). Temporal case study of household behavioural response
to Cape Town’s “Day Zero” using smart meter data. Water research, 149, 414-420.
Richter, B. D., Abell, D., Bacha, E., Brauman, K., Calos, S., Cohn, A., … & Loughran, M. (2013). Tapped out:
how can cities secure their water future? Water Policy, 15(3), 335-363.
Wolski, P. (2018). How severe is Cape Town’s “Day Zero” drought?. Significance, 15(2), 24-27.
Simpson, N.P. (2019) Accommodating landscape-scale shocks: Lessons on transition from Cape Town
and Puerto Rico, Geoforum, 102: 226-29.
Nhamo, G., & Agyepong, A. O. (2019). Climate change adaptation and local government: Institutional
complexities surrounding Cape Town’s Day Zero. Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies, 11(3), 9.
Boom and Bust in Eastern Australia
Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die –
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.
Dorothea Mackellar had her roots in the Liverpool Plains of NSW, and clearly knew something of eastern
Australia’s remarkable variations between drought and flood. Some 80 years after Mackellar penned
her famous poem, geographers Rob Warner and Wayne Erskine noted that lowland rivers in
southeastern Australia seemed to alternate between periods of high-flow and periods of low-flow with a
phase shift every 30-50 years. They called these ‘flood dominated’ and ‘drought dominated’ regimes,
In this essay, you must consider this phenomenon at a range of spatial and temporal scales. First, what
physical processes influence the shift from ‘flood dominated’ to ‘drought dominated’ regimes in eastern
Australia? At the catchment scale, what has been the management response to this extreme
variability? Finally, how have the implications of these management responses cascaded through
different spatial scales?
Recommended reading to start with:
Kirkup, H., Brierley, G., Brooks, A., & Pitman, A. (1998). Temporal variability of climate in south-eastern
Australia: a reassessment of flood-and drought-dominated regimes. The Australian
Geographer, 29(2), 241-255.
Power, S., Casey, T., Folland, C., Colman, A., & Mehta, V. (1999). Inter-decadal modulation of the impact
of ENSO on Australia. Climate Dynamics, 15(5), 319-324
Verdon, D. C., Wyatt, A. M., Kiem, A. S., & Franks, S. W. (2004). Multidecadal variability of rainfall and
streamflow: Eastern Australia. Water Resources Research, 40(10).
Warner, R. F. (1997). Floodplain stripping: another form of adjustment to secular hydrologic regime
change in Southeast Australia. Catena, 30(4), 263-282.
GEOS1902 essay topics
For your GEOS1902 essay, you need to choose one of the following four topics. Based on the topic you
chose; you will work with the relevant lecturer to identify a specific case-study and academic resources
to support your research process. Your final output will be in a form of a 2000 words essay.
Dr Sophie Webber
Resilience in the face of climate change in Pacific Island countries
Dr Naama Blatman-Thomas
The politics of land in cities, particularly around issues of place-making, identity and rights
Prof Bill Pritchard
Sustainability and justice in urban food systems
A/Prof Dan Penny
The physical-human binary of contemporary Geography in the era of the Anthropocene………….
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