How to become a water sensitive city
Innovative thinking and collaboration are two key ingredients in successfully transitioning into a water sensitive city; and a recent research project shows that, when creating strategies for overcoming barriers, group thinking can work wonders.
That’s the vision for Water Sensitive City Visions and Transition Strategies Project Manager Katie Hammer, who will be presenting at Ozwater’18 on the outcomes of the project led by Monash University and the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities (CRCWSC).
The project is aimed at developing transition strategies and offering targeted guidance for cities across Australia.
Hammer said achieving sustainable and liveable cities in the future will require overcoming a range of institutional and management barriers, which is aided greatly through industry collaboration and creative, visionary thinking.
“We’ve noticed that people can sometimes get quite frustrated at a lack of progress. They keep hitting the same barriers over and over again. We are trying to provide them with guidance and practical tools to develop strategies targeted at breaking through those barriers,” Hammer said.
Launched in July 2016, the project utilises an integrative research methodology and works closely with industry members – water champions. There are currently five case studies across Australia, in Perth, Adelaide, Townsville, Sydney and Bendigo.
“We did lots of preparation in each city, which involved identifying local water champions, conducting one-on-one interviews to learn about the challenges they face in trying to drive change and trying to transition to more sustainable practices,” Hammer said.
The project involved facilitating workshops with professionals across water, planning and development sectors, with each city benchmarked on its current water sensitive performance using the Water Sensitive Cities Index tool developed by the CRCWSC.
“This gave each city an idea of where they are at now, then we developed a vision for 50 years in the future: what do we want the city to look like in 50 years time and what outcomes do we want ensured? The first step is agreeing on where we want to be in the future,” Hammer said.
“The last step in the process is about developing some strategies and actions for getting there. This part employs the Transition Dynamics Framework, which outlines the different phases of a transition and what enabling factors need to be present within each phase in a city.
“It helps champions recognise where they are in their water sensitive city transition and what they need to do in the short-to-medium term to progress to the next transition phase.”
Hammer said initial feedback from the workshops has been very positive, with many participants gaining insight into the process of changing approaches in order to achieve better outcomes.
“We have found that once we outline the transition concepts and framework in a simple and easy-to-use format, people start to really run with it. Transitions have different stages and phases. It’s perfectly natural that there are different pathways with roadblocks. It’s natural for it to be a complex process,” Hammer said.
Although introducing water industry leaders to the framework has helped drive understanding and innovative thinking, Hammer said getting champions together to discuss barriers has also been hugely beneficial to the process.
“Coming together makes a huge difference. Sharing those frustrations, acknowledging them and then moving forward and asking ‘now what?’ is actually one of the most beneficial aspects of this process. Champion networks and groups tend to have more influence than an individual,” Hammer said.
“We see that as a really positive outcome of this process. Forming a network has a lot of power in overcoming the barriers that people and organisations are facing. It’s really great to see a change in people’s thinking. It’s been really positive.”
Register for Ozwater’18 to hear more from Katie Hammer on the outcomes and impacts of the Water Sensitive City Visions and Transition Strategies project.
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