Water supply in an increasing number of rural and peri-urban communities in South Africa can be described as marginal. This means that it is subject to failure, becoming unaffordable or increasingly difficult to access. This can be caused by a number of factors.
Firstly, communities may be poorly served by formal water infrastructure by being on the margins of urban settlements.
Secondly, where water infrastructure exists, this may be prone to failure as local municipalities and water utilities with limited capacity and resources struggle to maintain a widely dispersed system.
Thirdly, when local water systems fail, they are often not repaired quickly, if they are repaired at all.
Water marginality, therefore, can result in people, often with very limited resources, having to carry water over considerable distances or needing to pay someone to transport water to them in order to meet their basic water needs.
In a new paper titled ‘Water marginality in rural and peri-urban communities’ with Adeyeye and Chakwizira, we investigate water marginality in communities in rural and peri-urban areas in South Africa.
The paper draws on surveys and interviews of communities, the local authority, water and urban planning officials, to understand the nature of this marginality, and investigates the key contributory factors. This forms the basis for proposals on how access and marginalisation can be addressed.
The paper provides valuable insights on how, and why, water marginality occurs, and proposes strategies for sustainable solutions. As climate change and rural-urban migration accentuate water marginality, the study offers important and timely insights in an area that urgently requires further research.
The paper can be accessed here.