Water Sensitive Cities Australia – Our first 12 months

August 9, 2022
It’s been a very busy time for Water Sensitive Cities Australia as we approach our first 12 months of operation. As a new initiative, our key focus was on demonstrating value to our partners. With the support of 8 major partners, our small team embarked on an ambitious portfolio of projects – both in Australia and overseas – to continue our mission of seeing water sensitive practice in every city, every day.
We combined some short, ‘quick win’ projects with longer term projects that both demonstrate value early while also building momentum for longer term impact. Here are some examples of what we have been doing in our first year.

Australian projects

Our activities in Australia cover various topics in a range of locations.

In Western Australia:

  • We collaborated with MSDI and the Water Services Association of Australia to produce a fact sheet on the overlap between circular economy and water sensitive city frameworks. The aim was to identify how combining these 2 frameworks can support and accelerate sustainability outcomes.
  • We are preparing a Councillor engagement package that aims to build the authorising environment for water sensitive cities. In particular, the package will build local government decision makers' knowledge of and support for water sensitive cities principles, practices and benefits.
  • We are scoping a project that applies water sensitive urban design in a small infill development to demonstrate how it can be used to manage drainage, mitigate heat and maintain tree canopy.
  • We are also scoping a project that investigates the viability of NatureLinks in Perth, to facilitate movement of native species, increase tree canopy for urban cooling, provide people access to nature and increase ecosystem services.

In Victoria:

  • We delivered a series of half-day masterclasses for regional water businesses and councils on developing integrated water management (IWM) benefit–cost analysis, business cases and funding. These masterclasses drew on expert input from Griffith University (Qld), Water Sensitive South Australia and Melbourne Water. The next stages of this work include an updated Value Tool focusing on regional benefits, a guideline and case study applications.
  • We supported consideration of options for mainstreaming IWM funding, and are examining how IWM, resilience, liveability and regulated price determination processes can better fit together in serving the long term interests of customers and the community.
  • We are supporting MSDI Water’s development of a leadership program for new water business and catchment management authority board directors. We are contributing to modules on contemporary issues in Regulation and Compliance, Financing and Funding, and IWM Risk Management.
  • We are working with South East Water on developing a planning guide for urban planners and developers on urban cooling. The guide will draw on research and on-ground works at the Aquarevo residential development.
    An artist impression of the Western Parkland City centred around South Creek Wianamatta, where integrated planning delivers a city which reimagines liveability

    Economic evaluation masterclass series

    Elsewhere around the country:

    • We are exploring the potential for a North Queensland hub/community of practice. A recent workshop attracted representatives from all 3 levels of government, local universities, the International Water Centre and a consultancy firm.
    • Professor Tony Wong was a keynote presenter at the Stormwater Victoria annual conference, and Jamie Ewert presented on a recent Scenario Tool application and spoke at the recent launch of a toolkit that promotes inclusive infrastructure design.
    • We improved the functionality of online versions of the Transition Tools (the Transition Dynamics Framework and the Management Action Tool). We are also developing training on using the Transitions Tools, to be delivered later in the year.
    • The WSC Index Tool has now been applied to 77 locations, to benchmark water performance.
    An artist impression of the Western Parkland City centred around South Creek Wianamatta, where integrated planning delivers a city which reimagines liveability

    SEW Smart Irrigation System Infographic

    International projects

    We’ve maintained our presence in China and are expanding our presence in the Mekong region:

    • We continued our long association with the City of Kunshan (China) by delivering 3 projects that integrate nature-based solutions into a new rail corridor, a riverfront park and a school. We are also excited to hear Kunshan has been selected as a National Demonstration Sponge City.
    • We worked with the County of Jiaxiang (China) and the Asian Development Bank to develop an Integrated Water Management Strategic Plan to help the county respond to and manage current and future water cycle challenges.
    • We supported Morphum Environmental as it assessed the water performance of City of Auckland using the WSC Index Tool and a cultural process that involved Traditional Owners.
    • We started our 3-year Resilient Urban Centres and Surrounds program, funded by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). This program builds on our previous work in Thailand and Viet Nam to expand the use of nature-based solutions and economics tools to deliver urban water management and liveability outcomes. This new program expands our activities to Cambodia and Lao PDR.
    • We have also supported DFAT and Australian Water Partnership invitations to:
      • present to the Australia–Thailand Dialogue: Managing Risks to Critical Infrastructure
      • present to the WASH & Climate Resilience Symposium and Water and Climate online dialogues.
    • Professor Tony Wong chaired an in-person session at Singapore International Water Week and will chair a session at the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Council on Disaster Risk Reduction (APMCDRR) in Brisbane (19-22 September).

    You can check out what we’ve been up to and keep track of new projects on our new website. We welcome feedback, so send in your suggestions to info@wscaustralia.org.au.

    An artist impression of the Western Parkland City centred around South Creek Wianamatta, where integrated planning delivers a city which reimagines liveability

    Sponge City demonstration site in Kunshan, China

    I’d like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank our partners who have supported and guided us through our first 12 months, especially the members and observers of our Advisory Board. I’d also like to thank our small but dynamic team who have delivered much in a short time. Together, we have created a strong foundation for more impact over the coming years.