Media framing of the Cape Town water crisis: perspectives on the food-energy-water nexus

J. Leah Jones, Dave D. White, Djiby Thiam

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Scopus citations


    The 2018 water crisis in Cape Town, South Africa, captured the attention of international media outlets as the city faced the possibility of running out of water. Examining this media provides an opportunity to understand the framing of the water crisis, which can provide valuable insights into what society and policymakers consider important. Media analysis can also examine the framing of the impacts of the crisis; with strong interlinkages between food, energy, and water resources, the water crisis directly impacted other resource sectors. To explore the media perspective on the crisis and its impacts across the food and energy sectors, the research here uses content analysis to analyze news articles about the water crisis. We analyze the framing of the problems and solutions to the water crisis and the framing of food-energy-water nexus interactions and impacts. Our results show that the media framed the water crisis as being caused by drought, politics, poor management, and overuse of water, while it presented the proposed solutions of reducing demand and increasing water supply through technological solutions. Additionally, the media framing shows a major impact of the water crisis on the agriculture sector and a strong reliance on energy-intensive technical solutions to address the water crisis, suggesting potential unintended consequences within the food and energy sectors without direct consideration of their intersections. We conclude that the media framing may suggest a mismatch between causes and solutions, as the media rarely presented improving governance and management as potential solutions, yet identified poor governance as a cause of the crisis.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number79
    JournalRegional Environmental Change
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Jun 2022


    • Food-energy-water nexus
    • Framing theory
    • Media framing
    • South Africa
    • Water management

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Global and Planetary Change


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