The Australian Government has recently recognised the critical importance of urban water by awarding $30m to establish a Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) for Water Sensitive Cities (WSC).
Internationally unique, the CRC-WSC is a consortium of Australian and international universities, government bodies, water corporations and private industry, with the shared goal of delivering urban water management solutions that take account of both social and technical requirements to make Australian towns and cities water sensitive.
The CRC-WSC has similarities with programs such as Greenworks Philadelphia, and the Texas Clean Rivers Program, locally focussed initiatives with an emphasis on coordination of agencies and community engagement. In addition the CRC-WSC is also concerned with developing innovative technologies and systems and ways to remove the policy obstacles to achieving water sensitive cities.
Professor Tony Wong, the nominated CEO of the CRC-WSC, said that the output of the CRC will guide capital investments of more than $100 billion by the Australian water sector and more than $550 billion of private sector investment in urban development over the next 15 years.
Water sensitive cities are defined as resilient, liveable, productive and sustainable. They efficiently use the diversity of water resources available within towns and cities; enhance and protect the health of urban waterways and wetlands, and mitigate flood risk and damage. They also create public spaces that harvest, clean and recycle water, increase biodiversity and reduce urban heat island effects.
Monash University (in Victoria, Australia) will lead the 74 research, industry and government partners drawn from five states of Australia and internationally. The members are research groups at Monash, University of Western Australia, University of Queensland and the National University of Singapore, state government agencies, water corporations, other university centres, local government, private companies, an NGO and a number of international institutes.
International participants include City of Rotterdam (The Netherlands), Danish Hydraulic Institute (Denmark), Public Utilities Board of Singapore (Singapore), Technical University of Denmark (Denmark), UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education (The Netherlands) and University of Innsbruck (Austria).
The CRC-WSC builds on current, very successful interdisciplinary research projects. From a focus on the social and biophysical sciences of urban water management, cross disciplinary projects have now expanded to include urban climatology, climate change science, environmental economics, urban planning and design.
Professor Wong believes that there is not just one problem to be solved but many – and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. A nine-year research and development program has been mapped out grouped into the following programs:
Program 1 – Society – will focus on understanding the social, economic and political factors that help or hinder efforts to create water sensitive cities.
Program 2 – Water Sensitive Urbanism –will apply green infrastructure and climate responsive design principles to water security, flood protection and maintaining ecological health at both macro and micro levels.
Program 3 – Future Technologies – will focus on the development of integrated, multi-functional urban water systems.
Program 4 – Adoption pathways – will focus on improving community engagement, enriching education and training programs and supporting robust partnerships between scientists and policy makers.
The CRC-WSC will be established in July 2012. Participating organisations will contribute $27m in cash and $59m in-kind to the operation of the research centre.
The team at Citygreen are in full support of these initiatives, and believe these are essential to bringing life and sustainability back into our cities.
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