What is a Water Sensitive City

A Water Sensitive City is one where water’s journey through the urban landscape is managed with regard for its rural origins, coastal destinations and spiritual significance. A philosophy of flexibility in supply and use to meet all users’ needs underpins the collection and movement of water, and the technologies to facilitate the physical movement of water are designs that manifest these ideals visually for all to acknowledge and appreciate. Three principles set the foundation for this vision of a Water Sensitive City:

  • Cities as Water Supply Catchments: meaning access to water through a diversity of sources at a diversity of supply scales;
  • Cities Providing Ecosystem Services: meaning the built environment functions to supplement and support the function of the natural environment; and
  • Cities Comprising Water Sensitive Communities: meaning socio-political capital for sustainability exists and citizens’ decision-making and behaviours are water sensitive.

The attributes of a Water Sensitive City, compared with our current urban water management paradigms have been described as follows:

Attributes Traditional Regime Water Sensitive Regime
System Boundary Water supply, sewerage and flood control for economic and population growth and public health protection Multiple purposes for water considered over long-term timeframes including waterway health and other sectoral needs i.e. transport, recreation/amenity, micro-climate, energy etc.
Management Approach Compartmentalisation and optimisation of single components of the water cycle Adaptive, integrated, sustainable management of the total water cycle (including land-use)
Expertise Narrow technical and economic focussed disciplines Interdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder learning across social, technical, economic, design, ecological spheres etc
Service delivery Centralised, linear and predominantly technologically and economically based Diverse, flexible solutions at multiple scales via a suite of approaches (technical, social, economic, ecological etc)
Role of public Water managed by government on behalf of communities Co-management of water between government, business and communities
Risk Risk regulated and controlled by government Risk shared and diversified via private and public instrument

Click here to see the key papers and articles which proved more discussion on what a Water Sensitive City entails.