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INTELLIGENT WATER SOLUTIONS
have helped to bring some impressive and innovative projects
to fruition. The challenge now is to continue to educate these
organisations and the general public on the vital need for
Australian capital cities to become water sensitive cities.
What is a water sensitive city?
Water sensitive cities are sustainable, resilient, productive and
livable. They efficiently use the diversity of water resources
available within them, enhance and protect the health of urban
waterways and wetlands, and mitigate against flood risk and
damage. Water sensitive cities also create public spaces that
harvest, clean and recycle water, increase biodiversity, and reduce
urban heat island effects.
A water sensitive city combines physical infrastructure (such as
water sensitive urban design (WSUD)) with social systems (such
as governance and engagement) to create a city in which the
infrastructure and systems enhance the connections that people
have with water, and improve quality of life. Water is a critical
aspect of place making, both in terms of environmental values,
and the social amenity and cultural connection to a place, and
therefore can contribute to the livability of a city.
Transitioning to water sensitive cities
Transitioning to a water sensitive city will require a paradigm shift
in urban planning and design, and an overhaul of conventional
approaches. Because water has had, and will continue to have, a
direct influence on the resilience and livability of Australian cities
and towns, the planning and design for the development and
redevelopment of these metropolitan areas needs to be integrated
with that of future water systems.
A values shift will need to occur, along with changes in the
often implicit agreement between communities, government
and industry on the management of water. In particular, there is
a need to build sociopolitical capital for sustainability, livability
and resilience to expedite a transition to water sensitive cities.
Explicit policy will be required to embed the true economic value
of stormwater infrastructure – particularly the multiple benefits
of green infrastructure, such as stormwater harvesting – as
there is growing evidence that net positive economic benefits
can be achieved. Further, appropriate decision support tools are
required, as well as an understanding of governance strategies
to enable transformation.
Why do we need to change how we build our cities?
In Australia, and in many urban centres around the world, three
critical drivers are affecting cities and towns: population growth,
and changes in lifestyles and values; climate change and climate
variability; and economic conditions.
Urban places have become a critical focus point for ecologically
sustainable development practices, with the world’s urban
population now having surpassed the population living in rural
environments. In Australia, approximately 63 per cent of the
population now lives in large cities and towns, and this is expected
to increase to 80 per cent by mid-century. Designing livable cities
to address this growth is now an emerging focus in many city-
Climate change and climate variability will continue to put pressure
on water resources and natural systems, and will also increase flood
vulnerability and our exposure to urban heat island effects. Building
resilience to the impacts of climate change – and, in particular,
ensuring secure water supplies, the safe conveyance of floodwaters
and the ecological protection of water environments – is an
emerging challenge, as growing communities seek to minimise
their impacts on already stressed water resources.
Further, changes in economic and institutional conditions can
reduce the capacity to fund hybrid or multifunctional water
infrastructure, and can also affect governance structure and
community expectations. This highlights the importance of
incorporating integrated governance, and actively engaging with
the community to understand their expectations and aspirations.
A VALUES SHIFT WILL NEED
TO OCCUR, ALONG WITH
CHANGES IN THE OFTEN
INDUSTRY ON THE
MANAGEMENT OF WATER
APPROXIMATELY 63 PER
CENT OF THE POPULATION
NOW LIVES IN LARGE CITIES
AND TOWNS, AND THIS IS
EXPECTED TO INCREASE
TO 80 PER CENT BY MID-
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