Water Journal : Water Journal December 2014
WATER DECEMBER 2014 22 Opinion It’s easy to see why our cities are the economic powerhouse of Australia – and, hence, why effective urban water management is still vital for the future productivity of Australia. Australia is the most highly urbanised continent in the world, with >75% of people living in cities > 100,000 people, which together generate 77% of GDP economic activity1 while covering only 0.2% of the land surface. The CBDs of Sydney and Melbourne alone – just 7.1km2 – generated $118 billion in 2011–12 (~10% of all economic activity in Australia), and triple the contribution of the entire agriculture sector. It is, therefore, vital that our urban centres are well placed to cope with the uncertainties and risks of the 21st century. The CSIRO has adopted a systems-based approach to planning for, and management of, these uncertainties, and water remains a vital issue in this context. We see water as inseparable from – and no less important than – energy, food production, human health and the other pillars upon which cities depend. In response to this challenge, CSIRO has formed a new (approximately $10 million) Research Program called the Liveable, Sustainable & Resilient (LSR) Cities Program, led by Dr Simon Toze, which incorporates CSIRO’s world-class expertise in urban water science, formerly deployed through the old Urban Water Theme. In short, CSIRO is taking steps to enable its science to interrogate urban challenges beyond individual research domains such as water, thus seeking to provide easier answers to more complex questions that often require cross-sector trade-offs. The truly multi-disciplinary nature of the Cities Program enables exploration of liveability, sustainability and resilience2 with more deliberate scientific vigour than was previously possible. The Program will focus on improving the understanding of issues such as extreme events like floods and droughts, infrastructure (for example, roads, buildings, water, gas and electricity), and environmental vulnerabilities (such as ecosystems, water quality and so on), which together impact on population health, energy, water, productivity, transport and food supply. Strategies for managing these issues will create enormous research opportunities and outcomes internationally as well as for Australia. The new LSR Cities program aims to be Australia’s pre-eminent provider of systems-based research to enable resilience of 21st century cities. The program has several goals related to urban water research, including to: • Develop integrated water cycle resilience options for cities using innovative systems- based research and targeted science. Examples of these include continuation of the world- leading research into managed aquifer recharge (MAR), recycling of wastewater and stormwater harvesting. It has been estimated that national uptake of 320 GL/year of rainwater, urban stormwater, recycled water for potable or value adding substitution of supplies by 2030, could save Australia $480 million pa in supply costs and $4 billion in capital costs. WHY WATER IS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE SUSTAINABILITY EQUATION In our My Point of View column in the August 2014 issue, Technical Editor Chris Davis wrote of concerns regarding funding cuts to the CSIRO. Tim Muster and Declan Page wrote this article in response. 1 grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/814-mapping-australia-economy.pdf 2 Walker B and Salt S (2006): Resilient Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World. Island Press, USA. In short, CSIRO is taking steps to enable its science to interrogate urban challenges beyond individual research domains such as water, thus seeking to provide easier answers to more complex questions that often require cross-sector trade-offs.
Water Journal November 2014
Water Journal February 2015