In response to a range of contemporary urban water challenges, there is an increasingly urgent need to change the way water is used in our cities. In Australia, the ‘Security through Diversity’ policy has been introduced in a number of cities to help facilitate a shift towards sustainable urban water management. This qualitative case study research investigated the interpretation and implementation of this radically different urban water policy approach across the case study cities of Perth and Melbourne. To focus the research and allow for more reliable comparative analysis across the cities, the introduction of desalination and permanent water saving rules as new initiatives in these cities were of particular interest. The research results are drawn from a synthesis of over 65 semi-structured interviews with senior urban water practitioners in the case study cities, and a content analysis of key policy and guidance documents, as well as organizational literature where available. The key finding of this research was that because of an entrenched technological paradigm, and the difficulty in breaking this pattern of lock-in, practitioners are currently interpreting and implementing Security through Diversity in a way that does not fully realise the potential of this strategy. More specifically the interview results revealed that the urban water practitioner community believed that the introduction of seawater desalination would discharge their city's responsibility for achieving Security through Diversity and that demand management initiatives, while nice, are not essential to this policy position. Interestingly, despite context evidence to the contrary, the practitioners believed supply and demand planning to be an integrated practice within their city. The paper concludes by offering some recommendations to facilitate a more comprehensive implementation of Security through Diversity and outlines areas for possible future research.
Keywords: desalination, security through diversity, sustainable urban water management