David has been asked to present a keynote address at the Stormwater Victoria Conference in June 2018. The theme for the conference is Water Sensitive Communities: Inevitable or Pipe Dream?
Here is David’s abstract:
A Bottom Up Alternative Pathway to Water Sensitive Communities
Attitudes to, and designs for, dealing with stormwater are changing from a plumbing drainage model to one aimed to store, slow, spread, filter and sink water. While the pace of residential and other urban development has provided opportunities for the installation of innovative infrastructure reflecting the water sensitive paradigm, the bursting of the Australian property bubble could radically reduce the opportunities for greenfields projects and capacities of governments to fund new infrastructure development. The future of water sensitive design thus lies in retrofitting.
RetroSuburbia is a rubric for retrofitting the built, biological and behavioural aspects of Australian suburban life using permaculture designs and patterns. This will build resilience to energy descent futures that will flow from climate change, energy crises and economic contraction and are not currently being addressed by government planning. These permaculture design responses, focused at the household and community level, could achieve the goal of water sensitive communities as one of a myriad of positive outcomes.
RetroSuburbia starts in the backyard but moves into the street and the public space to create a whole-of-landscape commons by incremental retrofit.
RetroSuburbia contributes to water sensitive communities through householder-driven retrofits to detain and reuse water, primarily for garden and urban farming. While water storage and its timely reuse is an obvious aspect, increasing the water- and nutrient-holding capacity of soils is the potential game changer. Organic practices, mineral rebalancing, biochar, perennial plant systems, swales, wicking beds and aquaponics are some of the elements of intensive permaculture systems that can increase the capacity of suburban landscapes to detain, filter and reuse water from roof and other hard surface runoff.
Retrofitting to create a closed loop system reinforces that there is no “away” to send unwanted contaminants and toxins to.
Like much of the world Victoria faces the following challenges: population growth and aging, changes in lifestyle and values, climate change and climatic variability and challenging economic conditions.
Our use of water underpins our economy, recreation, health and surrounding environment. It is important that Indigenous values are appropriately recognised.
A water sensitive community uses water in a way that is productive and sustainable, while acknowledging the need for the environment to be resilient to changes and liveable for all in it.
The theory of Water Sensitive Cities is well documented and understood. The three pillars of Water Sensitive Cities as articulated in Wong and Brown (2009) are:
- Cities as Water Supply Catchments
- Cities providing Ecosystem Services
- Cities comprising of Water Sensitive Communities.
Alternate water sources, reliability, environmental risk, cost and the difference between decentralised and centralised systems are commonly considered in projects. The benefits and creation of beneficial microclimates, carbon sinks, habitat and biodiversity are emerging themes.
Communities are complex and often comprise of disparate and diverse groups with differing socio, economic and environmental needs. This Conference wishes to explore whether Water Sensitive Communities are still a pipe dream or whether definitive steps have been made in implementing and demonstrating why it is inevitable that we all live in a water sensitive community.