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Photostory provides insight into the Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) Strategy for Adelaide

Sep 14, 2015
Author: Goyder Institute


Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) includes delivery of drinking water, stormwater management and harvesting, flood mitigation, wastewater treatment and recycling, and protecting the health of the water courses; and its implementation encompasses integration of all components of the urban water cycle within the City’s urban development to achieve sustainable economic, social, and environmental goals. But implementing an IUWM strategy and/or transitioning to water sensitive cities face several challenges, which is further exacerbated by the inclusion of ‘new sources’ (e.g. stormwater, recycled wastewater) in to the supply mix.

Literatures suggest the challenges are not technical; instead they are socio-institutional. This demands considering how these can be resolved to manage these mix of water sources. Accordingly, this Goyder Institute study, conducted by Prof Jennifer McKay from the University of South Australia, was carried out to identify the legal and policy challenges to implementing IUWM in Adelaide, and also explore potential solutions to overcome these challenges.

A unique Photostory exercise was conducted with participants from different suburbs in the Adelaide metropolitan area. A scoping study was initially conducted to identify the issues associated with urban water management in general, and the implementation of an IUWM strategy for metropolitan Adelaide in particular, in order to provide a better understanding of the issues related to IUWM and to decide on the themes for the main study. Accordingly, the following broad themes were identified:

  • The meaning of water
  • What is good about living here
  • What is bad about living here
  • Water justice
  • Sustainable water management
  • Difficulties with water
  • Issues and debates in urban water management
  • Ownership issue of new water sources (e.g. stormwater, sewage water, desalinated water)

Participants were asked to take photographs of various aspects of water that were related to the given themes. The participants were instructed to record their perceptions of particular issues, take a photograph(s) that conveyed their perception, and then relate the photographs to the theme(s) as they saw fit.

The participants were also advised to articulate a theme of their own if they wished to. Along with the taking of the photographs, the participants were instructed to complete the diary with entries about the details and their perceptions of each image. As the participants chose which photograph to take or what to write in their diary, rich narratives emerged that provided greater insight into everyday practices. Having these details enabled the researchers to accurately attribute the data as they were dealing with a large number of photographs over a period of several weeks. When the diaries were subsequently discussed during the group interviews, the participants were able to elaborate upon, and to express their understandings of, the photographs and the entries in their diaries.

The learnings from this study establish that engaging stakeholders’ effectively facilitates the decision-making process, with stakeholders providing useful and relevant knowledge and, more importantly, the likelihood of greater stakeholder acceptance. Also, it is useful for understanding any potential conflicts and forms the basis for developing coalitions of support at different stages of a project and/or policy development and implementation.