Sarah Choudhury

Sarah Choudhury

The University of Queensland.

Supporting transformative change of urban water regimes: a systems analysis to identify barriers and interventions based on coproduced practitioner knowledge

Urban water management has the potential to increase the resilience of rivers that feed into the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). The Reef 2050 Plan (2018) sets a long-term target that urban stormwater sources will have no detrimental impact on the resilience of the GBR. To achieve this, the design and implementation of urban development activities must become more water sensitive. Through Queensland’s Planning Framework local governments are responsible for enforcing state regulations relating to erosion and sediment control, stormwater improvements and water sensitive urban design. However, compliance with these regulations across the GBR catchment is low and efforts to implement best practice have been met with institutional resistance.

This PhD research project seeks to contribute to knowledge about transforming regime structures to foster enabling conditions for stewardship practices, which go above and beyond legislative requirement to achieve improved social and environmental outcomes. Since 2017 the researcher has observed and supported an existing capacity building program aimed at improving erosion and sediment control and urban stormwater management across coastal Queensland. The researcher has partnered with the Water by Design team to capture on-ground management knowledge, coproduced through facilitated discussions at strategic planning and community of practice workshops. This has been used to develop a systems thinking analysis of the Queensland urban water regime. The idealised policy cycle, assumed by the Planning Framework, has been made explicit. This system structure is then unpacked based on patterns identified by practitioners who work within it. This process has highlighted problematic feedback loops and mental models preventing desired change. This allows for an exploration of factors affecting local government resourcing, mechanisms of data collection and reporting, and platforms for social learning and institutional innovation. It identifies interventions and outcomes to guide the strategic direction and continuous improvement of the capacity building program.

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