We summarized the collected data for the environmental and physical dimensions of Lima, Windhoek, Adelaide, and Cairo (Table 1). All cities share challenges of water quantity and quality, along with vulnerability to climate change. The cities also face desertification, which affects water availability by decreasing the water storage ability of the soil and loss of runoff water that could have been used in dry seasons. Figure 3 provides maps of the studied cities, showing water resources and water treatment plants.
3.1.1. Lima is tackling water injustice through communal organizations
The coastal city Lima (Peru, Fig. 3A) faces insufficient water infrastructure, overexploitation and contamination of groundwater, poor disinfection of water in rural areas, discharge of wastewater into surface water and lack of sewage systems leading to the use of septic tanks, causing ecological problems. Lima also lacks an efficient rainwater collection and reuse system, and only a small percentage of treated wastewater is reused (Carroll, 2017; Gammie and De Bievre, 2014; Carreazo et al., 2006).
The population lack sufficient information about water status and challenges in Lima, water is only perceived as an economic value. To raise awareness and engage citizens, the Ministry of Housing, Construction and Sanitation (MVCS) in Peru celebrates the water day every year with competitions, field visits and capacity building programs (Simon, 2018). Residents of informal areas consume much less water than those in high income areas. They also pay higher prices for it and spend the highest proportion of their income on water. 60% of consumers do not benefit from the water subsidy (Felgendreher and Lehmann, 2012).
In Lima, there is a centralized governance system, and the population is opposed to privatization. The MVCS in Peru oversees the sanitation sector (Furlong, 2016). The Superintendencia Nacional de Servicios y Saneamiento (SUNASS) is the governmental regulatory entity for the water service providers. The Servicio de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado de Lima (SEDAPAL) is the water provider in Lima (Vilcara and Karina, 2009). Communal organizations (JASS) are officially assigned by the MVCS to provide water services to 85% of the population in rural and peri-urban communities in Peru. Households that are members of these associations are simultaneously owners of the water infrastructures and users of the service. They participate in construction and maintenance and, in turn, get access to the water services for a small monthly fee (Calzada et al., 2017).
SEDAPAL has launched a multibillion-dollar Master Plan (2015–2040) to address water and sanitation needs in Lima, focused on adaptation of the water infrastructure for future demand increases and reduction in water availability. It has also started investing in aquifer recharge projects to prevent and manage overexploitation and ensure meeting future demands and is undertaking measures to increase the wastewater collection level to reduce water contamination. SEDAPAL is also developing a Master Plan for green infrastructure in response to droughts and heavy rains. This aims to preserve the ecosystem and prevent erosion (Carroll, 2017). The "Mechanisms of Compensation for Ecosystem Services" law was passed to enforce using part of the water tariffs in green infrastructure projects, climate resilience and risk management.
3.1.2. Windhoek uses treated water for potable and non-potable purposes
Windhoek in Namibia relies on ephemeral rivers, groundwater, and treated wastewater (Fig. 3B). The city faces water scarcity due to the increase in population and urbanization, lack of water infrastructure investments, poor capacity building, high water pollution and extreme droughts (Scott et al., 2018). In addition, artificial recharge of groundwater has led to an increase in the aquifer’s vulnerability to contaminants.
The city of Windhoek is the first in the world to use treated water for potable and non-potable purposes (Boucher et al; 2011). Windhoek has carried out educational programs to increase the awareness of water consumption and the acceptance of drinking reclaimed water, and has also promoted customer advice, public participation and distribution of efficient water use information (Rensburg, 2006). Citizens accept and derive pride from the fact that they are the only city in the world where reclaimed water is used for drinking (Lahnsteiner and Lempert, 2007). However, the majority are not aware of the treatment process of water treatment and supply, leading to high water consumption rates. Due to desalination’s negative impacts on the environment, the public is generally against it (Kgabi and Mashauri, 2014).
A block tariff system is used in Windhoek to enable water conservation and subsidization. In informal settlements, a flat rate is used, where water fees are charged for the whole community. This system is unfair due to non-payment by some individuals, leading to higher payment by others. In addition, people in informal settlements pay higher percentages of their income compared to those in high income areas (Kastner et al., 2005). The public perception of the value of water is generally low (Flod and Landquist, 2010).
The government has full responsibility of water resources in the country. Within the Ministry of Agriculture, Water, and Forestry (MAWF), the Department for Water Affairs is responsible for the water management, regulation of bulk water supply and provision of water in rural areas (Liehr et al., 2018). The Department of Infrastructure, Water and Technical Services (CoW) oversees the supply, distribution, and quality of drinking water in urban areas. The Namibia Water Corporation (NamWater) is the national supplier of bulk water. The structural organization for water management in Namibia lacks coordination.
In Windhoek, water demand management has shown promising results since it was initiated in 1994 (Lahnsteiner and Lempert, 2007). An Integrated Urban Water Management Master Plan for the City of Windhoek was launched to provide the city with a strategy for sustainable development and operation of water and wastewater infrastructure for the next 20 years (African Water Facility, 2017). A Water Demand Management Strategy and the Drought Response Plan were set up to address water shortage and use during droughts. The Windhoek’s Save Water campaign aims to reduce residential water consumption by 40%. The National Water Saving Campaign aims to ensure that water wastage is curbed in all governmental institutions. Finally, the Windhoek Managed Aquifer Recharge Scheme aims to increase the long-term sustainability of the water supply capacity by recharging treated water into an aquifer during intense rainfall, for use in times of drought (Scott et al., 2018).
3.1.3. Adelaide uses a digital platform to disseminate knowledge
The main water resource of Adelaide in South Australia is the surface water in the Mount Lofty Ranges, the River Murray and groundwater (Fig. 3C). Treated wastewater is used for non-potable purposes. Efforts are made to provide water through desalination in drought periods (Government of South Australia, 2014). Harvested rainwater was found to contain high levels of E. coli, making it unsuitable for recreational use (Chubaka et al., 2018). The city suffers from prolonged droughts, resulting in the production of sulphuric acid and the release of heavy metals and other contaminants, posing health risks and negative impacts on the environment and water supplies. In addition, water resources are polluted due to use of pesticides (Government of South Australia, 2003).
South Australia Water (SAWater) is a business enterprise that is owned by the government and is responsible for the provision of water services in South Australia. SAWater launches educational programs, site tours, expos, presentations, as well as market and social research to engage the customers and raise their awareness. It relies on digital information to provide knowledge to its customers through a user-friendly website with an interactive map of the water network and resources. SAWater uses phone and online surveys to measure the customer satisfaction, in addition to focus groups and one-on-one interviews. The organization engages its customers, communities and stakeholders in the planning and delivery of capital and business development projects (EPA, 2016).
Low-income households pay a higher percentage of their income compared to higher income households. About third of low-income customers have difficulty in paying their water bill (South Australia Council of Social Services, 2017). The government offers rate remission to those who cannot afford payment, in the form of protection from restriction of water services, offering flexible payment plans and alleviation of legal actions (SA Water, n.d.1).
The Department for Water in the Government of South Australia is the main manager of water resources in South Australia. SAWater is the only water service provider. Some private firms have been assigned the operation and maintenance of infrastructure by long-term contracts (Keremane et al., 2017). SAWater contacts its customers frequently to measure their satisfaction with the services provided and find out about their perception and opinions of its performance, using surveys and phone calls, as well as focus groups and one-on-one interviews (SAWater, n.d.2). The company also engages stakeholders in the planning and delivery of capital and business development projects through community information sessions and community reference groups (EPA, 2016).
Water for Good, a plan set up in 2009 to ensure water security of South Australia up to 2050, outlines actions to promote diversity of water resources, improve the allocation and use of water and improve its industry. By implementing the stated actions, Greater Adelaide will only need water restrictions once every 100 years, aside from conservation measures (Government of South Australia, 2010). A statewide policy for water sensitive urban design includes targets addressing the water quality. The Murray-Darling Basin Plan in 2012 provides for the integrated management of the Basin’s water resources. In addition, it ensures a sustainable future supply of drinking water for Adelaide and other regional communities, keeping the Murray Mouth open, flushing salt from the system, and providing flows to precious River Murray wetlands and floodplains and supporting a sustainable irrigation sector (Government of South Australia, 2014).
3.1.4. Cairo has witnessed water educational and awareness campaigns and events
The arid city of Cairo is dependent on the Nile River (Fig. 3D). It represents about 95% of the total country’s water resources. Cairo faces a rapid increase of its population, raising the demand of freshwater resources. Water stress is also caused by inefficient pipe network and water pollution due to industrial activities (Gad, 2017). Irrigated lands in Egypt suffer urban encroachment and deterioration due to salinity of irrigation water. Salinization is a result of inappropriate water management at field level and lack of drainage system, reuse of drainage water by large quantities, which is loaded with salt (FAO, 2016). Egypt is one of the pioneer countries in the reuse of water. All drainage water of Upper Egypt returns to the River Nile raising its salinity. Drainage water is mixed with fresh water and reused for different purposes (Abdin and Gaafar, 2009).
Water has been perceived as a public good which is supplied at a nominal price in Egypt (Khedr, 2007). The Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation (MWRI) has carried out media campaigns to spread awareness. It also carried out workshops and distributed knowledge and facts about water status (GreenCOM, 2006). The Cairo Water Week started is organized annually by the MWRI to promote awareness and innovative solutions for water challenges. Access to water services in Egypt is uneven and depends on geographical and socio-economic conditions (World Bank, 2015). The official water tariff is unaffordable for those in extreme poverty (about three million people). They tend to illegally connect to water services, risking fines (Hutton, 2012). Current water tariffs are insufficient to cover the operational expenses.
The Ministry of Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities (MHUUC) is the main institution involved in the urban water and sanitation. The MWRI is responsible for development, distribution, maintenance, policy making, efficiency, quantity, and quality of water resources, in addition to all specifications and permits for water resources uses. The Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation (MALR) is in charge of agricultural research and extension, land reclamation and agriculture (FAO, 2016). Egypt has a rich experience with the water users’ associations (WUAs) in the field of agriculture. They allow farmers’ participation in management, operation, and maintenance of water systems. However, WUAs have no legal status, which among other things constrained their ability to collect money and act as independent bodies with full private ownership (Rap et al., 2015). The Egyptian Water Regulatory Agency (EWRA) is responsible for publishing and dissemination of information, reports, and recommendations. This provides users with information about their responsibilities and rights and raises their awareness. (Mumssen and Triche, 2017).
The National Water Resources Plan for Egypt 2017–2037 (NWRP – 2037) is funded by the EU and aims at organizing, at the national and governorate level, the optimal water resource allocation. It involves coordination of key staff in the MWRI to monitor the implementation of action plans. The National Rural Sanitation Programme 2015 aims at providing universal access to sanitation in rural Egypt, through financing investment in the areas deprived of sanitation infrastructure (World Bank, 2018). The Joint Integrated Sector Approach (JISA): is a donor co-ordination mechanism aiming at enhancing investment effectiveness in the irrigation sector by means of an improved coordination of investment planning and implementation within the MWRI of the Government of Egypt (European Commission, 2018).