Characterising water sensitive cities through inquiry-based learning systems

Shelton, M. R.; Bos, J. J.; Collins, K. B; Ison, R. L. and Iaquinto, B. L. (2022). Characterising water sensitive cities through inquiry-based learning systems. Australasian Journal of Water Resources (Early Access).



Transitioning to water sensitive cities in Australia is necessary for creating urban areas that are resilient to natural disasters, water shortages and climate change. But how to transform existing urban centres into water sensitive cities remains a difficult prospect, as their situations are characterised by complexity. In this paper we report research to enable systemic-transformations praxis. We brought together water practitioners from various sectors for a number of systemic inquiry events across five cities to understand what was required to begin a transition to water sensitive cities in Australia. Using an approach influenced by systemic innovation, we purposefully designed an inquiry-based learning system to initiate changes in understandings and practices amongst participants. Critically, our learning system design made scientific knowledge available for interpretation, internalisation and contestation, by practitioners in different contexts. The workshops led to identification of characteristics of water sensitive cities; relevant issues and opportunities; and commitments and constraints to action constituting a baseline data set for future evaluation of progress. Transitioning to water sensitive cities requires a combination of leadership, a supportive institutional-sectoral environment, practical implementation of technologies in social contexts and increased collaboration involving knowledge coproduction across disciplines and sectors. Systemic inquiry methods lend themselves to revealing the socially constructed nature of urban water as hybrids of the technical, natural and social. Despite some limitations, our approach enhanced institutional innovation and investment and offers insights into future research and planning for enabling systemic-transformations praxis in multiple sectors and contexts.

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