IWA Publishing

Multiple conceptions of sustainable urban water systems: problem or asset?

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This paper examines various conceptions that researchers and practitioners in the sector have about sustainable urban water systems, to discern what these conceptions are and whether they are complementary or divergent. The study is based on a literature review and field studies, including semi-structured interviews. The results show that the conceptions held by the various actors are largely complementary, the most important divergence between them concerning time. The time perspective of local politicians is shorter than that of researchers and practitioners. A long-term perspective needs to be reinforced in decision making and planning to encourage research and development (R&D) for both technology and organizational structures to be better able to meet the sustainability challenges that urban water systems face. This reinforcement partly concerns fostering better understanding between different groups of actors, for example, through the joint (re)development of visions of and strategies for sustainable development, but also concerns clarifying at the national level how R&D in the Swedish water sector should be organized and financed.

Keywords: Interviewing, Strategy, Sustainable development (SD), Time perspective, Urban water system

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