Achieving sustainable urban water systems: identifying pathways and obstacles in implementing sustainable water systems using a systems thinking approach




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Achieving sustainable urban water systems: identifying pathways and obstacles in implementing sustainable water systems using a systems thinking approach




Candice Homewood

Supervised by Dr Sarah Bell

MSc Environmental Systems Engineering

Abstract


With a growing global population and a rising global temperature, there is likely to be reduced water availability. Peoples’ needs and demands for water use are multifaceted and there is an increase of water-related environmental problems. Urban areas around the world face the challenge of supplying their residents with clean, sanitised water, but without leaving an impact of the natural environment. There is demand for innovative sustainable water infrastructures that will make cities ‘greener’, which include economic, social and environmental factors that interact with one another. Using various examples of new sustainable water systems across the world including, BedZED in the United Kingdom, the Pimpama Coomera scheme in Australia, and the Las Vegas valley in the United States of America, a critical review was made to determine if there were any recurring factors that were relative to the success rate of the case study. To evaluate the case studies, a systems thinking approach was used so to obtain a holistic viewpoint when assessing the sustainable urban water systems. The sense of hierarchy of urban water systems was described showing that there are many different levels of systems that have different functions and relationships with urban water systems. In order to achieve sustainable urban water systems that can be used for future generations, a holistic view is imperative so that it is not just the innovative water systems that form part of the system, but other social, economic and political systems. This project has determined that using a systems thinking approach is necessary when planning and assessing urban water systems as their success rate often relies heavily on the system users, which is the general public. Using a systems thinking approach, barriers within urban water systems were identified, along with what can be done to mitigate these barriers. For each case study the system boundary was identified, along with the system components and also the system environment. Each component and system interact with one another to produce the urban water system, so by identifying all relationships and the needs of an urban water system, lessons can be learnt for future projects.


Keywords: Urban water systems, sustainable, systems thinking approach, stakeholders.

Acknowledgements



Many thanks to Sarah Bell, who supervised this project and provided useful input and support throughout. Thanks to the Croydon Advertiser for use of their archives and pictures. Thanks to Ruth Chait at the Peabody Trust for provision of the BedZED resident satisfaction report.

Table of contents


1

Achieving sustainable urban water systems: identifying pathways and obstacles in implementing sustainable water systems using a systems thinking approach 1

Candice Homewood 1

Supervised by Dr Sarah Bell 1

MSc Environmental Systems Engineering 1

Abstract 2

Acknowledgements 2

Table of contents 3

List of tables 4

List of figures 4

1 Introduction 5

1.1 General Introduction 5

1.2 Project purpose and objectives 5

1.3 Layout of project 6

2 History of urban water systems and their paradigms 7

3 Drivers to adapt a new paradigm 9

4 Water use and society 13

5 Literary review on sustainable development of urban water systems 16

There was a great deal success by educating people in this manner as show by the 1.17 billion m3 of water that was saved in one year, just through changes in peoples’ habits and simple new technologies. A website was set up to educate and inform people. The local water board also monitored the success of this new sustainable living. Small businesses were able to benefit as they were the ones actually producing these new types of water efficiency devices. Customers did not mind paying the higher water rates as the water of the water supplied was of much better quality. The rest of Spain watched this project with great interest, and this included cities of a much larger scale to include Madrid and Barcelona. Although there isn’t much literature on this case study, the interest of the larger cities showed the importance of it to the rest of Spain. 20

6 Introduction to systems thinking and system approaches 23

6.1 Systems thinking within urban water systems and their environments 24

7 In depth discussion of case studies 27

7.1 BEDZed 27

7.1.2 Applying a systems thinking approach to identify barriers 33

7.2Las Vegas 35

7.2.1 History of SNWA 36

7.2.2Future of water conservation in Las Vegas 37

7.2.3Applying a systems thinking approach to identify barriers 39

7.3 Pimpama Coomera 39

7.3.1 Applying a systems thinking approach to identify barriers 42

8 Synthesis 44

8.1 Systems thinking within urban water systems 44

8.2 Stakeholders / system components 46

9 Final Conclusions 50

9.1 Recommendations for further work 51

Appendices 55

Appendix 1 55

United Kingdom 55

Australia 55

United States 56

Appendix 2 58



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