Water Smart Cities
Agreeing on assessment criteria for "water smart", or "sustainable", cities and their water systems is no easy task. While the Australian water sector has taken international leadership role in this field, there remains significant uncertainty regarding best practice. Historically, pragmatic decisions have been made using the "best information of the time".
Lack of agreed assessment criteria leaves planners with relatively few metrics to support their decisions. There is a need to improve the quantification of sustainability practices to identify how cities as a whole are performing, along with their component water systems. How can we know if a city really is "water smart" or "sustainable"?
A wide-ranging review of available literature indicated that clear understanding of physical and scientific factors impacting on the availability and efficient use of water is needed, to establish common ground. The concept of urban metabolism has been put forward as one way of furthering the analysis of resource-efficiency. Other factors related to cost, resilience, and risk are argued as necessary information to augment a "metabolic" analysis focussed on efficiency.
The aim of this project was to identify frameworks, and associated performance indicators, that could be used to help understand key elements of sustainable cities with regard to water. This included overall resource efficiency as well as resilience, cost and risk. The intention was to bring together literature and industry knowledge to help understand water smart and sustainability principles. Subsequent work focused on converting the preliminary findings discussed above, into agreed and specific research priorities and a program of work. The key research questions were:
- What factors and issues differentiate water smart cities and towns in sub-tropical and temperate environments?
- What is the best method to progress knowledge and adoption of these factors?
Key Publications and Outputs
- Technical Reports 43 (Towards Assessment Criteria for Water Sensitive Cities) and 74 (A Research Agenda for Water Smart Tropical and Sub-Tropical Cities and Towns
- Conference papers listed on the Alliance website
- Proceedings of the Alliance Science Forums
This project engaged in a number of related efforts, including the "Cities of the Future Program" co-ordinated by the International Water Association, and the Melbourne-based Cities as Water Supply Catchments Program. The Alliance linked with these efforts, but contextualised the research to enable specific applicability to the South East Queensland climate.
Dr Brian McIntosh, International Water Centre / CSIRO
Ph: +61-7-3123 7766