Realising sustainable urban water management: Can social theory help?

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

It has been acknowledged, in Australia and beyond, that existing urban water systems and management lead to unsustainable outcomes. Therefore, our current socio-technical systems, consisting of institutions, structures and rules, which guide traditional urban water practices, need to change. If a change towards sustainable urban water management (SUWM) practices is to occur, a transformation of our established social-technical configuration that shapes the behaviour and decision making of actors is needed. While some constructive innovations that support this transformation have occurred, most innovations remain of a technical nature. These innovative projects do not manage to achieve the widespread social and institutional change needed for further diffusion and uptake of SUWM practices. Social theory, and its research, is increasingly being recognised as important in responding to the challenges associated with evolving to a more sustainable form of urban water management. This paper integrates three areas of social theories around change in order to provide a conceptual framework that can assist with socio-technical system change. This framework can be utilised by urban water practitioners in the design of interventions to stimulate transitions towards SUWM.

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