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Accueil du site → Doctorat → Australie → 2011 → Security and sustainability in urban water management ; an interdisciplinary analysis of decision making in relation to Sydney’s water system during the millennium drought of 2000-2010

University of New South Wales (2011)

Security and sustainability in urban water management ; an interdisciplinary analysis of decision making in relation to Sydney’s water system during the millennium drought of 2000-2010

Lawhon Isler

Titre : Security and sustainability in urban water management ; an interdisciplinary analysis of decision making in relation to Sydney’s water system during the millennium drought of 2000-2010

Auteur : Lawhon Isler

Université de soutenance : University of New South Wales

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2011

Résumé
The Millennium Drought, which started in 2000 and lasted nearly a decade, led to a state of crisis for water management in Australia&​#146 ;s cities. The nature of the problem posed by the drought was both complex and contested. Under intense pressure to provide security of supply, state governments responded with engineering solutions to &​#145 ;drought proof&​#146 ; their cities and deal with climate change uncertainty. Others saw the drought as the proximate cause of a deeper crisis &​#150 ; the fundamental unsustainability of Australia&​#146 ;s urban water systems and the &​#145 ;big-pipes in, big-pipes out&​#146 ; logic upon which these systems are based. While sustainable urban water management (SUWM) literature calls for a transition to adaptive and holistic approaches incorporating demand management, &​#145 ;fit-for purpose&​#146 ; use, and decentralisation). The Australian urban water sector may be in the midst of such a transition, but the pathway to sustainability is not clear, nor is there an agreed vision of sustainable urban water management. The disruption of the drought may have been an opportunity to expedite this change as a catalyst for transition, but it was equally likely to reinforce traditional management patterns in pursuit of security and stability. Within this collision of paradigms, this thesis investigates urban water policy and management responses in Sydney from 2004-2010. It proposes that the challenge of urban water management is a &​#145 ;wicked problem&​#146 ; characterised by uncertainty, competing values, and disagreement about both the causes of the problem and appropriate solutions. The analysis focuses on issues of problem definition and bounded rationality in the policy debate. The thesis then develops and undertakes an interdisciplinary critique incorporating historical and institutional analysis (contextualisation), critical/​interpretive analysis of problem framing, contested policy narratives and influential discourses, and evaluation of the actual policy solutions proposed by the NSW Government and proponents of alternative SUWM practices. The NSW Government&​#146 ;s strategic water plan during this period is reviewed in detail, and an in-depth case study examines the decision to build a desalination plant. The analysis reveals a divergence of problem frames amongst actors in the policy debate and conflicting institutional objectives which make the current system resistant to change. While water industry and planning experts were open to adaptive approaches and SUWM practice, the political need to provide certainty meant these options were ultimately unacceptable to ministerial decision makers who were under time pressure during the drought. The overall contribution of this research is an improved understanding of the complex challenge of institutionalising sustainable urban water management practices, and the use of a methodology (critical discourse analysis) that has received limited attention within environmental policy research.

Mots Clés : Drought — Urban water management — Sustainability — Framing analysis

Présentation

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Page publiée le 30 novembre 2012, mise à jour le 29 juin 2017