Urban storm water management – catalyst to moving towards a Water Sensitive City

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  • Catalina Codruta Dobre
  • Luisa Moretto

From a water sensitive perspective, storm water establishes a link between water and urbanity. Storm water is seen as an alternative resource for non-potable waters, a part of urban landscape design, a regeneration motor of urban waterways, a direct connection to the urban life, as well as, a factor which determines urban flooding and surface run-off. My research identifies and evaluates an assessment tool for sensitive storm water management practices. The interest of the investigation lies in the fact that sensitive storm water practices, even if highly appreciated in the specific literature and proven successful in punctual situations, are not yet generally recognised.

 I take as a starting point a holistic theoretical framework for establishing the benefits and limitations of storm water in the urban environment. Through a historical approach on the evolution of contemporary city models, I identify the added value introduced by the ‘water sensitive’ concept. I complete this approach with a systemic vision on the urban water cycle based in the concept of ‘urban metabolism’ (Gandy, 2004) and an anthropological approach on the urban perceptions.  and on the other hand through an anthropological approach based on the perception and the‘meaning’ of water in the city (Strang, 2004).

 Then, based on the theoretical framework, I compose an assessment tool by selecting among available indicators from three fields: water management, perceptions and water governance.

Thirdly, I test the assessment tool on a recognized sensitive storm water project. Developed in Australia, the concept of ‘water sensitivity’ found its application in the European context with dense urban areas, a low rate of water related disasters and a moderate climate. The application of this concept was enabled by the search for solutions to storm water related disasters (eg. urban flooding, surface run-off) and the manifestation of bottom-up initiatives.

In conclusion, I set up to pursue three adjacent objectives. First, I position the concept of Water Sensitive City within the evolution of contemporary models for the city. Then, I define storm water’s benefits in the urban water cycle by combining systemic and anthropological approaches in order to broaden the notion of storm water management by adding urban perceptions on water to technical concerns. Finally, I aim to introduce different perspectives into the process of decision-making.