Water Journal : Water Journal April 2013
WATER APRIL 2013 62 Feature Article The Australian Government has made the creation of liveable, sustainable and productive cities a national priority and identi ed reform of urban water systems as a key goal. This acknowledgement has encouraged signi cant public and private support for the establishment of the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Water Sensitive Cities, an inter-disciplinary research program that will revolutionise urban water management in Australian cities. The 'revolution' is in the inter- disciplinary approach that will be adopted in research and associated partnership with industry across multiple industry sectors. This is in recognition that the challenge in building water resilience in the face of increased climatic variability and uncertainty is manifold. It is not exclusively about water. Solutions will need to be integrated into the city form in an inter-disciplinary manner in order to foster a higher degree of climate resilience in cities of the future. This article presents an overview of the research activities of the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities and its vision of the water-sensitive city. THE ORIGINS OF CRC FOR WATER-SENSITIVE CITIES In November 2012, the then Federal Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator the Hon Kim Carr, announced funding of almost $148 million for world-class collaborative research and innovation under the Australian Government's Cooperative Research Centres program. In addition to four renewals of existing CRCs, two new CRCs were to be established, one of which is the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities (CRC-WSC). The CRC-WSC will receive $30 million in Australian Government funding until 30 June 2021, and is supported by higher education institutions, government and non-government organisations, water utilities and the private sector, which are contributing a further $89 million. This CRC brings together the inter- disciplinary research expertise and thought-leadership to undertake research that will revolutionise water management in Australia and overseas. In collaboration with over 70 research, industry and government partners, the CRC-WSC will deliver the socio-technical urban water management solutions, education and training programs, and industry engagement required to make towns and cities water sensitive. The Australian CRC Program has had a long connection with water. Since its commencement in 1991, it has established the CRC for Catchment Hydrology from 1992 to 2005, the CRC for Freshwater Ecology from 1993 to 2005, and its amalgamation into eWater CRC from 2004 to 2012, and the CRC for Water Quality and Treatment from 1995 to 2008. The CRC for Water Sensitive Cities will run from 2012 to 2021. Currently, it is the only existing water-related CRC in Australia. The CRC for Water Sensitive Cities has four hubs, located in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Singapore. WHY DO WE NEED WATER-SENSITIVE CITIES? Cities across the globe are facing increasing challenges for managing water. Water is critical for the health, viability and development of cities, yet urban population growth and climate variability are placing pressure on resource availability and already stressed ecosystems. At the same time, water services infrastructures are reaching the end of their lifespan in developed countries, while developing countries race to meet growing needs, often importing traditional models and standards from developed nations, arguably unsuited to their conditions and socio-political contexts (Boyle et al., 2010). These prevailing water management technologies, modelled on large centralised potable supply systems, do not always offer urban communities the exibility needed for meeting sustainable development goals, nor the ability to address future conditions. It is also increasingly recognised that, along with changing consumption habits and expectations, sustainable development is more likely to be achieved through a diverse suite of alternative supplies, such as recycled wastewater, greywater, stormwater and decentralised technologies augmenting centralised infrastructure, while protecting waterway health, thus building exibility into servicing options (e.g., Newman, 2001; Lienert, Monstadt and Truffer, 2006). Despite policy rhetoric, proven technology options and well-performing demonstrations projects, modern cities have had limited success at implementing and managing these complex water supply and waterway health protection practices in a cohesive and mainstream way. The water-sensitive cities initiative is responding to a general consensus across multiple sectoral stakeholders in the urban planning and design of future cities that existing water services and planning processes are poorly equipped to support projected population growth and slow to respond to economic or climatic uncertainty. In essence, cities were trying to meet 21st century challenges by re-investing in 19th century strategies and infrastructures. The wicked problem we face in building water resilience in the face of increased climatic variability and uncertainty is manifold. It is not exclusively about water. Solutions will need to be integrated into the city form in an inter-disciplinary manner in order to foster a higher degree of climate resilience in cities of the future (Wong et al., 2012). REVOLUTIONISING URBAN WATER MANAGEMENT The CRC for Water Sensitive Cities will receive $30 million in Australian Government funding until 30 June 2021 to undertake research that will revolutionise water management in Australia and overseas. Ana Deletic, Anas Ghadouani, Jurg Keller and Tony Wong discuss the key objectives of CRC-WSC and outline its vision of the water-sensitive city.
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