Perspectives on metropolitan water security
Dr Diana Day, Adjunct Professor with the UNSW Global Water Institute, was the guest speaker at the Institute's seminar series on 30 November, sharing insights on planning for the future of urban water security.
Dr Day stressed that while Australia is doing well in this area, with many different lessons learnt from different states, a radical change in water supply systems is needed for the future.
"I think we have done pretty well with our water management in Australia but we're going to have to keep looking at de-risking cities in terms of future shocks... And they will come," Dr Day says.
Water security is a very multi-faceted area... It's economics, it's climate, it's extreme weather, it's politics, it's investment, it's institutions... So all of these things together create a situation for an urban context or a large suite of urban centres that actually intermesh to give you water security.
Dr Diana Day, GWI Seminar Series
Dr Day warned that climate-dependent water supply cannot be relied upon to support the needs of cities in the future. With pressures such as urban expansion and the likelihood of extreme weather events on the rise, water security, defined loosely as "the reliable availability of an acceptable quality and quantity of water for the community at an acceptable level of risk" may be called into question.
"Water security is a very multi-faceted area... It's economics, it's climate, it's extreme weather, it's politics, it's investment, it's institutions... So all of these things together create a situation for an urban context or a large suite of urban centres that actually intermesh to give you water security," Dr Day says.
Dr Day advised that the challenge for water security is to come up with much more innovative, flexible, and adaptive approaches, rather than simply extending the older systems that are already in place. Suggestions include innovative treatment of recycled water for potable water supply (as undertaken in Perth), advancing integrated catchment and water management in hinterlands surrounding cities, and introducing tougher regulations for improved water quality.
It was also suggested that technology has a big part to play in this challenge, that established analysis tools such as AdaptWater should be utilised to help protect infrastructure from extreme events, and investments made in technology for decentralised systems, getting more communities 'off the grid' and reducing the demand for energy and water treatment from established infrastructure.
When asked what role researchers could play in advancing urban water security, Dr Day emphasised the need for cross-disciplinary approaches and better collaboration between sectors.
"There are creative solutions available in getting post-graduate students and under-graduate students involved in synergistic research with both the private and public sector", Dr Day says.
Dr Day's guest lecture was the second in UNSW-GWI's recently established 'seminar series'.