Water Sensitive Cities

WSUD is often used in parallel with the term WSCs, however there are subtle differences between the two; WSC describes the destination (the objective), while WSUD describes the process (Fletcher et al., 2014). WSCs are sustainable, resilient, productive and liveable through a combination of physical infrastructure, governance arrangements and social engagement.

Three fundamental pillars of practice underpin a WSC (Wong & Brown, 2009):

  1. Cities as Water Supply Catchments: access to a diversity of water sources underpinned by a diversity of centralised and decentralised infrastructure;
  2. Cities Providing Ecosystem Services: provision of ecosystem services for the built and natural environment; and
  3. Cities Comprising Water Sensitive Communities: socio-political capital for sustainability and water sensitive decision making and behaviours

Transitioning to a WSC requires a major socio-technical overhaul of conventional urban water management approaches. It requires a change in the hydro-social contract - the pervading values and often implicit agreements between communities, governments and business on how water should be managed. The transition to a water sensitive city can be measured on the Urban Water Management Transitions Framework, developed by Brown et al. (2009). The framework illustrates a classification of six city states in the evolution of urban water management from the ‘Water Supply City’ to the ‘Water Sensitive City’ (Figure 4). The transition states are presented in a nested continuum - a continuous sequence where each state is contained in the next-, and indicate the dominant socio-political drivers and service delivery functions of each state.

WSUD is often used in parallel with the term WSCs, however there are subtle differences between the two; WSC describes the destination (the objective), while WSUD describes the process (Fletcher et al., 2014). WSCs are sustainable, resilient, productive and liveable through a combination of physical infrastructure, governance arrangements and social engagement.

Three fundamental pillars of practice underpin a WSC (Wong & Brown, 2009):

  1. Cities as Water Supply Catchments: access to a diversity of water sources underpinned by a diversity of centralised and decentralised infrastructure;
  2. Cities Providing Ecosystem Services: provision of ecosystem services for the built and natural environment; and
  3. Cities Comprising Water Sensitive Communities: socio-political capital for sustainability and water sensitive decision making and behaviours

Transitioning to a WSC requires a major socio-technical overhaul of conventional urban water management approaches. It requires a change in the hydro-social contract - the pervading values and often implicit agreements between communities, governments and business on how water should be managed. The transition to a water sensitive city can be measured on the Urban Water Management Transitions Framework, developed by Brown et al. (2009). The framework illustrates a classification of six city states in the evolution of urban water management from the ‘Water Supply City’ to the ‘Water Sensitive City’ (Figure 4). The transition states are presented in a nested continuum - a continuous sequence where each state is contained in the next-, and indicate the dominant socio-political drivers and service delivery functions of each state.

Water Supply City to the Water Sensitive City.png

The first three city states provide basic water, sanitation and stormwater drainage services and represent conventional urban water systems, where affordable and reliable basic services are provided.

As the city states move onto the Waterways City, Water Cycle City and WSC, the hydro-social contract is fundamentally restructured, and urban water management moves beyond service delivery to considering and providing social, environmental and ecological aspects. The WSC is the end goal, with the hydro-social contract in this state being “adaptive and underpinned by a flexible institutional regime, and coexisting and diverse infrastructure” (Wong & Brown, 2009).

The Urban Water Management Transitions Framework was envisaged mostly for cities in developed countries and has been adapted by Armitage et al. (2014) for the SA context. The adapted version accounts for SA cities which are characterised by both formal and informal areas that have varying levels of urban water services (Figure 5).

levels of urban water services.jpg