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Water SA

On-line version ISSN 1816-7950
Print version ISSN 0378-4738


WEAVER, MJT; O'KEEFFE, J; HAMER, N  and  PALMER, CG. Water service delivery challenges in a small South African municipality: Identifying and exploring key elements and relationships in a complex social-ecological system. Water SA [online]. 2017, vol.43, n.3, pp.398-408. ISSN 1816-7950.

South Africa is a developing country undergoing social and ecological transformation. Water service delivery (i) exemplifies the challenge of improvement and transformation towards a more socially and ecologically just situation, and (ii) can usefully be viewed as a complex social-ecological system (C-SES) in the search for 'just transitions'. Household water security problems associated with water service delivery in South Africa are recognisably intractable, multi-scaled, comprising many actors and elements and having no single solution. There is a global and South African trend towards systemic approaches to addressing such complex water challenges. However, the steps required to take a systemic approach are seldom explicit. This paper presents the analytical process of defining boundaries, identifying elements and exploring relationships between elements as the foundational step in a study of the Makana Local Municipality water service delivery C-SES in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. The resulting narrative and heuristics provide a clear systemic basis from which to research the emergence, practice and social learning process of a civil society organisation (Water for Dignity) seeking to confront water service delivery issues in the Makana Local Municipality.

Keywords : complex adaptive systems; systems inquiry; household water service delivery; civil society organisation.

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