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83 ideas for a water sensitive city - reflections and comments

This is a series of blogs to reflect on what we need to create better cities, and specifically ones that are smarter with water and better for people. In 2009 I went on a study tour to learn more about 'water sensitive cities'.  As a group we wrote a report titled 'Good ideas for a water sensitive city'.  We came up with these based on visiting 14 cities across Europe and Singapore.

#21 - City models & the big picture

One of the ideas was to "City models – the big picture" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Hamburg and Wilhelmsburg Island.  They built a 4 metre by 6 metre model of the new suburb!

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I still find today that this idea more than most encourages people to get involved and have a look at the potential of a place - to see it differently.  

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#20 - Invest the time for greater returns

One of the ideas was to "City models – the big picture" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Sheffield.  At Manor Fields Park they spent a lot of time working with the residents when they were redesigning and activating a park - and knew that they needed to take residents on the journey to see the benefits of this new 'water sensitive' design.

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is often missed - as we race through projects hoping to get them built!   

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#19 - Community engagement is an important part of the process

One of the ideas was to "City models – the big picture" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Rotterdam, when they were developing their 'Rotterdam Climate Initiative'.  The engagement was critical to also building political support to implement the plan. 

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is closely aligned to the March for Science and Earth Hour type of initiatives.  They rely on building wide spread community support to make it easier for politicians to take action. 

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#18 - Podcasting self-guided tours

One of the ideas was to "City models – the big picture" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Manchester and the Mersey Basin Campaign.  They created a podcast that was linked to signage along the waterways and canals - telling a story of the history of the place and the river and engaging people in a different way.

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is well ahead of its time.  We see more and more digital comms strategies looking for the social media and 'iPhone' type of engagement strategy. 

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#17 - Make community involvement hands-on and fun

One of the ideas was to "Make community involvement hands-on and fun" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Sheffield (UK). In this development the Council and other professionals ran sessions to allow the community to design an update to the park using clay models, wool and watercress.  They models must have looked good as the Council rebuilt the park with many new water sensitive features. 

Today it seems we sometimes to this type of engagement but more often than not don't.  We rely on online surveys and social media feedback, so perhaps we should try out some model making and have some more fun! 

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#16 - Bring stormwater to the surface

One of the ideas was to "Bring stormwater to the surface" (of a total of 83 ideas).   This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Amsterdam and Hamburg.  This idea is really about creating visible infrastructure, which a) helps in providing passive irrigation opportunities and b) creates a city that is more aware of what happens to water when it rains.

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is exactly what hundreds of practitioners have been working on for decades in the form of water sensitive urban design.  It is still relevant, and perhaps with a drier client and need for cooler urban landscapes, more important.  

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#15 - Amenity not just functionality

One of the ideas was to "Amenity not just functionality" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Enschede (Netherlands).  In rebuilding the city after a large explosion, they explicitly chose to engage a range of different architects to deliberately encourage a range of different buildings and amenity for the streets and town. 

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Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is great, and could be said to be missing from much of the new development completed in Australia - i.e. the same townhouses rolled out on every block you see being redeveloped.  

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#14 - Water information for all

One of the ideas was to "Water information for all" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Zaragoza, who retrofitted an old church to create a physical centre to house and promote water in the city.  The building itself was amazing, and it was centrally located which would help in attracting people too.  I don't know how well visited it is by the locals verses visitors.

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Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is better suited to be set up as a sustainable house / or demonstration sustainable city type of centre, not just a water centre.  


For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#13 - Open water treatment sites to the public

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One of the ideas was to "Open water treatment sites to the public" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Singapore.  At a place called Marina Barrage the whole suburb drains into a harbour area that is separated from the ocean, and the water collected in the harbour is filtered through a treatment plant that is open to the public.

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is quite innovative and should be promoted more and more.  In Melbourne there is a new Edithvale-Seaford Wetland Education Centre which is next to the treatment plant, and attempts to raise awareness and celebrate all things water.  I would like to acknowledge Andrew Allan and Leigh Holmes for their contribution and passion for this idea. 

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#12 - Engage with young people

One of the ideas was to "Engage with young people" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Hamburg, where a major redevelopment of the Wilhelmsburg Island included a special engagement exercise to engage with young people.  The driver was that a) there will be a large part of the community in this age bracket so they should be consulted in terms of designing this new part of the city, and b) this sector can be quite creative and innovative in thinking about how to improve city plans and designs. 

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea was ahead of its time, as I notice more and more engagement and 'codesign' projects that target and look to engage youth sectors in city and master planning projects.  

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#11 - Share stories to build unity and confidence

One of the ideas was to "Share stories to build unity and confidence" (of a total of 83 ideas).  We came up with these based on visiting 14 cities across Europe and Singapore. This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Enschede (Netherlands).  It is really an idea that focuses on how communities recover from extreme events (and in this case it is an exploding fireworks factory that decimated the town).

I think this idea is slightly left field from water management, but does help us in thinking of how we best respond to water related extreme events:  floods, storms, drought, water quality scares, pollution events.  It is something that is very useful the next time a city has experienced an extreme event and as a society and recovery agencies we ponder how best to acknowledge and learn from the event.

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#10 - Use a fish tank to prove greywater isn’t fishy

One of the ideas was to "Use a fish tank to prove greywater isn’t fishy" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Berlin in Germany.  The idea is to include a fish tank, fed by treated greywater, as a visual demonstration of how well we can clean and reuse greywater. This is the actual fish tank we saw (and apologies for the focus of the shot!).

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Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is very useful, particularly in high density and apartment buildings.  We are often asked about the potential for greywater and blackwater, and I always think of this project in Berlin where they demonstrated in a very visual way how well the treatment process worked.   

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#9 - Develop a river aquarium

One of the ideas was to "Develop a river aquarium" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to the Mersey River Campaign in the UK (Manchester). 

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is still very powerful.  As cities embrace their rivers, daylight them, and also recognise the impact of sea levels and storms on cities (see news just in on storms in eastern USA), a river aquarium would have a dual function of raising awareness of what lives in the rivers and seas, as well as highlighting the close proximity of water and oceans to our homes. 

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#8 - Create a water mascot

One of the ideas was to "Create a water mascot" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Zaragoza in Spain. They used the mascot to create a more visual and fun way to communicate with residents in the city. 

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Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is fantastic and I wonder if it could have helped Cape Town in engaging with their citizens.  The reports were that in Cape Town the campaign to get residents to save water was not as effective as the authorities would have liked.  

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

Ideas to build capacity, networks and knowledge

This next group of ideas are all about capacity, people and networks.  Sometimes referred to as the softer side of management and policy.  But as Cheryl Batagol says - just as important, or moreso!

 

#7 - Capacity building programs that train the trainer

One of the ideas was to "Capacity building programs that train the trainer" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Inwent in Germany.   

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is very similar to the Al Gore's 'Climate Reality Leaders' concept, where people would be trained to then share the message and train others.  I haven't seen many actually work, but it is a good idea!

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#6 - Allocate time for reflection

One of the ideas was to "Allocate time for reflection " (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Inwent in Germany. 

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is almost exactly what we are posting here!  Always good to stop and reflect on what you have done, what you are trying to do, and what you've learnt so far.

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#5 - Create a water charter

One of the ideas was to "Create a water charter" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Zaragoza in Spain. 

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is interesting but probably in today's terminology we'd refer to this concept as developing a city's water strategy and key principles.  The IWA Cities of the Future network has done a lot of work on this topic and the key principles (or charter) for cities. 

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#4 - Develop and maintain informal networks

One of the ideas was to "Develop and maintain informal networks" (of a total of 83 ideas). This particular idea stemmed from a discussion with Govert Geldof and Gerdrik Bruins (in Rotterdam, Netherlands).  They told the story that their Climate Resilience Plan mostly happened because there were enough people in an informal network with passion to make it happen.  And some political leaders that saw the merit in it too!

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is very relevant, but perhaps we need to think about how we do that and how people that aren't naturally drawn to 'networking' and perhaps have a more introverted personality can be part of informal networks. 

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#3 - Form a competence network

One of the ideas was to "Form a competence network" (of a total of 83 ideas). This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Hamburg, where the water engineers saw a benefit in working on specific issues like heat recovery from sewers, with other professionals from other European cities.  It is a model that has been around a while, and with the use of online forums and video-conferencing is becoming easier (though in some ways it is harder to see the wheat from the chaff online!).

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is similar to a lot of the AWA networks / committees and Capacity Building programs around Australia.  I would like to acknowledge Emily Phillips for her contribution and passion for this idea. 

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

 

#2 - "Export water knowledge"

One of the ideas was to "Export water knowledge" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Zaragoza and their hosting of the Water Expo in 2008.  A key part of that expo was encouraginig countries to think more and sharing and exporting their knowledge, for others to benefit from.

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is a key part of what is driving the CRC Water Sensitive Cities to engage with industry and research groups around the world. It is also very topical in terms of Cape Town's water issues and what Australian cities learnt in the millinium drought.  I would like to acknowledge Leigh Holmes for his contribution and passion for this idea. 

For futher info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#1 - "Create or join a learning alliance"

 This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Rotterdam. Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is still very relevant, and has been a key to another movement in the climate network discipline known as C40. I think the key is really that each city isn't facing a unique problem - and by collaborating across a city network you are more likely to tackle these sort of wicked problems.  Probably true moreso today than a decade ago!

I would like to acknowledge Leonie Duncan for her contribution and passion for this idea. 

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/