Call for Papers, Biennial Conference of the International Water History Association, Stellenbosch University, South Africa, 30 June – 2 July 2021

Water’s ‘Day Zero’ Alerts and Responses: Past, Present and Futures

In 2018 there was a water alert of an imminent ‘Day Zero’ in Southern Africa’s famous city of Cape Town. Severe regional drought conditions in the region since 2014 had a debilitating effect. It’s not new. In recent times major cities in many parts of the world have also experienced severe water shortages and critical problems in meeting the demand for water and sanitary services in cities. Some authorities explain water shortages and over-worked wastewater infrastructure as part of Anthropogenic climate change.
Anthropocene theorists warn that global warming, urban growth, population growth, urbanisation, migration trends and the demand for energy and food resources are factors contributing to critical resource shortfalls. These all have a profound effect on water availability.
However, is ‘Day Zero’ new?

Climate conditions of droughts and floods have over extended periods of time forced communities to vacate their living spaces, sometimes at short notice and other times over an extended time, depending on the local carrying power of water resources. There is clear evidence of how human settlement in the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East, Egyptian, China, South America and Europe have in historical times fallen victim to a lack of water resources.

Therefore, it is important for historians and water sector experts in academia and professional water sector leaders, to take a look at the state of affairs from past, to present and even the future.

As recently as early 2020 many areas in southern Africa have been experiencing severe drought conditions that started as far back as 2014. But how do we deal with these crises in the rest of Southern Africa, South America, and Australasia? The recent trend of drought and bushfires in Australia serves as illustration. For that matter, we in the Southern Hemisphere, need Northern Hemisphere voices on the history and future of water shortages.

Although part of the conference is dedicated to a focused theme – the Day Zero Phenomenon – there is also space for water researcher to group together with other themes.

Specialist water historians, sociologists, political scientists, hydraulic engineers, scientists and water sector experts are welcome to forward topics for themes. There are many water historians who have already focused themes in which groups have an ongoing engagement in the International Water History Association and other organisations.

Therefore, participants are welcome to propose panels for group sessions and more water themes. The local organising committee will then be coordinate themes for placement in the conference programme.

Prospective participants are invited to submit abstracts for themes that have a bearing on inter alia:

  • 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 history
  • Irrigation history
  • Urban water history
  • Rural water history
  • History of agricultural development and the evolution of smart water use
  • History of urbanization and water supply
  • Rural water history
  • History of water treatment and purification
  • History of wastewater reuse
  • Water and wastewater infrastructure systems
  • Old and new water technologies
  • Water related knowledge in ancient manuscripts (in different languages)
  • Sanitation history
  • Used water
  • Hydropower
  • Religion and water
  • Water management systems
  • Water security
  • Water disaster management: droughts and floods
  • Large Dams
  • Large dams and river systems
  • African water history
  • Water and sustainable development
  • Groundwater
  • Cultural history of water
  • Water history and its methodologies
  • Drought
  • Waterscape changes in response to urbanisation
  • Spatial arrangements and water technology systems (protection perimeters for water works and networks)

The 2021 IWHA conference will be hosted by the Stellenbosch University Water Institute (SUWI) at the STIAS Wallenberg Research Centre on the Stellenbosch campus, 30 June – 2 July 2021.

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