Managing stormwater in South African neighbourhoods: When engineers and scientists need social science skills to get their jobs done

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Stormwater harvesting via managed aquifer recharge in retrofitted infrastructure has been posited as a method for resource augmentation in Cape Town. However, the existing guidelines on stormwater retrofits are technically inclined, occidental, and generally misaligned with the realities and socio-economic contexts of developing nations like South Africa. Water and urban practitioners from developing nations cannot just 'copy and paste' existing guidelines as different socio-economic dimensions and colonial histories typically hinder 'traditional' approaches. This paper assesses how a transdisciplinary team navigated these realities in a case study of a retrofitted pond in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town. We applied a framework by Trisos et al. (2021) for reflection and thematic content analysis. The framework was used to unpack how the team encountered, addressed, and learned from the challenges during retrofit process. We found that the retrofit process within a context of under-resourced South African communities can be viewed as developmental work with a strong emphasis on continuous community engagement. Thus, we suggest that in the South African context, water practitioners should consider, at the fore, interaction with local communities, including awareness of racialised histories, to ensure projects are successfully implemented and completed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAqua-Water infrastructure ecosystems and society
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)456-464
Publication statusPublished - 2023

    Research areas

  • community engagement, interdisciplinary research, stormwater harvesting, INFORMAL SETTLEMENT, EXPERIENCES, WATER

ID: 346539628