Amber Abrams (Cape Town)

The Water Map and Cape Town Museum of Watery Relations

As Cape Town faced the 2018 Day Zero crisis, much discussion emerged around the value and evaluations of water. Despite this, in many instances, water problems continued to centre on governance, and decision-making processes led by experts. Often water resource management is dominated by scientific and technological approaches, that rely on ideas of expertise, to command, control and predict. Other ways of knowing get pushed to the periphery; not taken seriously. As climate concerns increase, various understandings and relatings to water sources need to be included for democratic debates to emerge, enabling appropriate responses to issues of environmental justice. For this reason, a focus on people is critical, rather than simply a focus on technical solutions and expert opinions. This paper outlines one pilot research project that creates space for a focus on concerns such as feelings, perceptions and emotions, as well as calling for feedback on evidence, science and water-related matters.

This project gathers information on the water sources that Capetonians make use of through an online interface. By asking willing participants to submit water stories to the Water Map for the Museum of Watery Relations, we can gather information on water access, and can map how and why certain water sources are chosen. The project's impact is most obvious through its ability to engage a wide stakeholder network to develop robust discussions and an understanding of local values and evaluations of water sources beyond the commonly accepted opinions of 'experts'. As the Map is in a pilot stage, this paper will present an overview of the submissions, at the time of the conference, to discuss the wide array of values and evaluations of among Cape Town water users.