Biennial Conference of the International Water History Association: Water's "Day Zero" Alerts and Responses: Past, Present and Futures, Stellenbosch University, South Africa, 29 June 2022.

Wessel Visser's picture
June 29, 2022
South Africa
Subject Fields: 
Ancient History, Environmental History / Studies, Maritime History / Studies, Rural History / Studies

2018 marked a water alert of an imminent 'Day Zero' in Cape Town, South Africa. Severe regional drought conditions in the Western Cape since 2014 had a debilitating effect on the community. In recent times, major cities in many parts of the world have increasingly experienced severe water shortages. Critical problems are plenty, as water authorities grapple to meet growing demands for water and sanitation service delivery. Some authorities ascribe water shortages and over-worked wastewater infrastructure to Anthropogenic climate change.

For some time, Athropocene theorists have increasingly issued warnings that global warming, urban and national population growth, migration trends and the demand for energy and food resources, are prime factors contributing to critical resource shortfalls. More frequently than before, local and regional water resource availability is compromised. 

Recently, extended and extraordinary conditions of droughts and floods have become more pronounced. More urban communities are forced to temporarily vacate living spaces, sometimes at short notice and over more extended periods of time, because of endemic local flooding events. There is a growing corpus of new scientific knowledge on how human settlements in the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East, Egypt, China, South America and Europe have, in historical times, fallen victim to diminishing, or changing local or regional water resources.

Therefore, historians and water sector experts in academia and professional water sector leaders, have to take stock of anticipated current and future water resources availability. We need to retrospectively contemplate contemporary and future water resources, also through the prism of historical assessments.

Many parts of Southern Africa until 2021, experienced severe conditions of drought. Regionally they emerged in the early 2010s. Now we need to take note of crises of this kind. Changing climate conditions also occur elsewhere in the world. How to we deal with these crises in the rest of Southern Africa, South America, Australasia and the rest of the Southern Hemisphere? The recent heatwaves, droughts and bushfires in North America, Europe and Asia in the Northen Hemisphere are most relevant for a more expansive global understanding of our present and future water resources' use and conservation. Therefore, it is vital for water experts in the Southern and Northern Hemispheres to collaboratively voice their views on the history, as well as current and future trends in the governance of finite water resources. 

Although part of the confererence is dedicated to the Day Zero Phenomenon, there is also a need for participant research in all areas of water studies throughout the world. The conference provides ample space for water historians and other water-related scholars who are currently focused on themes in international groups of researchers and water professionals. Many have long-standing collaborative reporting engagements on their operations at the regualar conferences on the international Water History Association and other organisations. 

Therefore, participants are welcome to propose panels for group sessions and more focussed water themes. The local organising committee will also create a facility for electronic conference proceedings and storage on the IWHA website. Abstract topics include, among others, the following: historical and current ethical perspectives on water; history of agricultural development and the evolution of smarter water use; water history and the environment; history of droughts; history of floods; marine and ocean history; irrigation history; urban water history, rural water history; history of urbanisation and water supply; history of water treatment and purification; history of wastewater use and wastewater infrastructure systems; old and new water technologies; water-related knowledge in ancient manuscripts; sanitation history; used water; hydropower; religion and water; water management systems; water security; water disaster management; large dams and river systems; African water history; water and sustainable development; groundwater; cultural history of water; water history and its methodologies; river histories; environmental justice and water equity; water-hydro diplomacy; water and climate change; waterscape changes in response to urbanisation; spatial arrangements and water technology systems ,etc.

Contact Info: 

For more confrence details contact Prof Wessel Visser, Department of History, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

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