In the coming decades, countries throughout the world will face increasing challenges due to climate change, especially with respect to changing hydrologic and broader environmental conditions. These challenges will be particularly acute in the Global South as they interact with existing pressures on already stressed water resources, such as increasing demand for water due to population and economic growth, poverty and inequality, and lack of institutional capacity, among others. In my doctoral research, I study the intersection of water governance, resilience and environmental justice in urban contexts. I study the nascent challenges to urban water governance in the face of global environmental change and their implications for transformation in the urban water sector. I engage critically with resilience, evaluating the various ways in which resilience thinking is reshaping urban water governance across different scales. With a specific focus on a case study from South Africa, the goal is to theorize and develop a situated understanding of water resilience - attentive to specific biophysical environments, lived experiences, socio-political and governance contexts, power and marginalization – for water experts and decision makers on one hand, and residents of impoverished, peri-uban and informal settlements on the other. Through this approach, the study will also further inform the possibilities for addressing equity and social justice concerns within a resilience framework, by investigating the discursive and practical manifestations of questions of poverty, inequality and differentiated water-related vulnerabilities in water governance. Ultimately, this project aims to engage with resilience thinking critically by investigating the different dimensions in which resilience can be evaluated.
Relevant publications:Ziervogel, G., Pelling, M., Cartwright, A., Chu, E., Deshpande, T., Harris, L., Hyams, K., Kaunda, J., Klaus, B., Kavya, M., Pasquini, L., Pharoah, R., Rodina, L., Scott, D. and P. Zweig. (2017) Inserting rights and justice into urban resilience : a focus on everyday risk. Environment and Urbanization 29(1): 123-138.
Other on-going research
Comparative Water Governance in urban sites of Africa Research Project (CWGAR)
The CWGAR project is conducted by the EDGES collaborative research group, led by Dr. Leila Harris. The team is based out of the University of British Columbia, with partners at the University of Ghana in Legon and at the University of Western Cape, South Africa. EDGES work is predominantly concerned with research on marginalized and vulnerable populations (women, the impoverished, etc.) and seeks to deepen knowledge and advance action on a wide range of coupled social and environmental issues. The CWGAR project focuses on the urban sites of Accra, Ghana and Cape Town, South Africa. The project encompasses a number of multi-year studies that focus on research at the intersection of water access/governance and citizenship in urban contexts, most notably in Cape Town, South Africa and Accra, Ghana.
Ethics in Water Governance
I have been working in the capacity of an outreach, communications and social media coordinator for the Water Ethics Network since 2013. As such, I have been involved in the development of a Water Ethics Charter, and in planning strategies for engagement and raising awareness around water ethics. I have written articles for a popular audience on water ethics and climate change and ethics in water governance. More recently, I became a co-chair of Water Future’s Water Ethics Working Group. In addition, I have published a chapter on the ethical dimensions of the Human Right to Water in Global Water Ethics: Towards a global ethics charter, and a journal article on on the ethics in river conservation (under review).
Human Right to Water
The recognition of the right to water as a universal human right marks a milestone in the realm of water governance, and yet scholars and policy makers continue to debate the successes and failures of its implementation as the ways this right is negotiated, experienced and struggled for in different contexts still remain key challenges. In my work, I have studied the various ways in which the implementation of the human right to water has affected water access for informal settlements in Cape Town, South Africa (published in Geoforum, 2016). I have also examined its potential in regaining traditional livelihood rights (published in Geoforum, 2013) as well as in pursuing avenues towards more socially just water futures for all (published in Politics, Groups and Identities, 2015).
Water Services and Citizenship in South Africa
In South Africa the state is understood and narrated in multiple ways, notably differentiated by interactions with service provision infrastructure and the ongoing housing formalisation process. In a co-authored article with Leila Harris (published in Special Issue: Water, infrastructure and political rule in Water Alternatives, 2016), we traced the various contested narratives of the state and of citizenship that emerge from interactions with urban water service infrastructures. This research provides a rich portrait of recent policy shifts and their meaning on the ground, and for people’s everyday lives in impoverished urban spaces in South Africa.
Sept 27, 2016 “Water Resilience and Equity and Cape Town: Trends and tensions in rethinking the urban water cycle”, Presentation, Society of South Africa Geographers Centennial Conference, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
Aug 24, 2016. "Tracing and Situating Water Resilience", Presentation, Workshop on Water Equity and Resilience in Southern Africa, Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study, South Africa.
May 5, 2016, "Tracing and Situating Water Resilience: The case of Cape Town, South Africa", Guest Lecture at African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI), University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.
July 25, 2015, “Ethics of the Human Right to Water: limitations and opportunities”, Presentation, International Society for Environmental Ethics Annual Conference, Kiel, Germany.
May 5, 2014, "Water Resilience in the Context of Informal Settlements in Cape Town, South Africa", Poster, Resilience 2014, Montpellier, France.
April 9, 2014, "Conceptualizing resilience from lived experiences perspective: the case of informal settlements in Cape Town, South Africa", Presentation, Association of American Geographers’ (AAG) Annual Meeting, Tampa, Florida, USA.
September 17, 2013, "Challenges for Research in Water Access and Governance and the Human Right to Water in South Africa", Presentation, 2013 UBIAS (University-Based Institutes for Advanced Study), Peter Wall Institute for Advances Studies, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
February 2, 2013, "Human Right to Water and Water Services in the Context of Informal Settlements in Cape Town, South Africa", Presentation, Community Movements Conference, Trent University, Peterborough, ON, Canada.