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Urban water crises driven by elites’ unsustainable consumption

Savelli, E., Mazzoleni, M., Di Baldassarre, G., Cloke, H. ORCID: and Rusca, M. (2023) Urban water crises driven by elites’ unsustainable consumption. Nature Sustainability, 6 (8). pp. 929-940. ISSN 2398-9629

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1038/s41893-023-01100-0


Over the last two decades more than 80 metropolitan cities across the world have faced severe water shortages due to droughts and unsustainable water use. Future projections are even more alarming, since urban water crises are expected to escalate and most heavily affect those who are socially, economically and politically disadvantaged. Here we show how social inequalities across different groups or individuals play a major role in the production and manifestation of such crises. Specifically, due to stark socio-economic inequalities, urban elites are able to overconsume water, whilst excluding less privileged populations from basic access. Through an interdisciplinary approach, we model the uneven domestic water use across urban spaces and estimate water consumption trends for different social groups. The highly unequal metropolitan area of Cape Town serves as a case in point to illustrate how unsustainable water use by the elite can exacerbate urban water crises at least as much as climate change or population growth.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:111005


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