WRC lighthouse 1 - Water Sensitive Design
The WRC Lighthouses
The construct of the WRC Lighthouse is a strategic developmental tool that will be further developed and implemented in this five-year planning cycle to direct research in key areas identified by the WRC. These Lighthouses are flagship programmes, and are trans-disciplinary, multi-KSA and inter-institutional mega-projects that will examine priority water issues across the innovation value chain. The WRC will actively seek to direct key projects into these programmatic areas. In the 2013/14 financial year, the WRC developed work plans for each of the Lighthouses.
Water Sensitive Design
The purpose of this Lighthouse is to develop a critical mass of knowledge around the integration of planning activities for the adoption of Water Sensitive Design in South Africa. The WRC envisions Water Sensitive Design (WSD) as the integration of water cycle management into planning and design for the growth and development of communities, and is inclusive of urban, peri-urban and rural environments. Thus, the definition of WSD is adopted from the principles of Water Sensitive Urban Design, which is the integration of planning and design with the management, protection and conservation of the water cycle, which ensures water management is sensitive to natural hydrological and ecological processes. WSD incorporates water supply, wastewater (grey-water), water resource management (groundwater and surface water), and environmental and human protection as part of its integrated design concept for environments. The research will also adapt the WSD principles to a developing country context.
The broad intended outcome of the WSD Lighthouse is to transition the relevant South African cities, towns and villages towards water sensitive environments which take into account socio-political drivers and meet their service delivery responsibilities. To this end, the WRC has already embarked on a project which aims to provide a framework for water-sensitive cities (urban environments), as a first step toward achieving this outcome, and will initiate a new project to provide a research framework for water sensitive rural design. Water and WSD is seen as the enabler that could move South African institutions closer toward meeting the developmental goals set out in the National Development Plan and the objectives of the Water for Growth and Development Strategy, National Water Resource Strategy 2 and the Climate Change Response Strategy. This pioneering, integrated-design paradigm shift for South Africa will require a societal openness to: embracing a water-sensitive design vision as part of its broader developmental vision, adapting planning processes, re-organizing planning departments, absorbing research and guiding new research, adopting new technologies and adapting old technologies, reviewing and applying new policy and legislation, building capacity (skills, competencies and judgment) and initiating demonstrations for technology transfer with partners and stakeholders
The WSD research roadmap
Examination of the WRC portfolio shows that there is already a wealth of information around water supply, sanitation (sewerage), stormwater (drainage), management of diffuse and point-source pollution in waterways, and fit-for-purpose water. These products are housed within all four research KSAs and will be repackaged and updated using Water Sensitive Design criteria. The Water Sensitive Design Lighthouse has a ten-year timeline with a five-year research review cycle. The research objectives will seek to: mine existing research products which contribute to the water transition states, critically review and repackage the products using the WSD lens, build a community of practice using research products as the enabler, build capacity through individual research projects, develop frameworks for urban and rural environments, develop guidelines and tools, inform policy and decision-making, and partner with stakeholders to demonstrate various sustainable options.
The first five years will consolidate past and current knowledge, build capacity and engage with stakeholders by sharing the vision of WSD through several platforms. The framework produced in Project K5/2071 for water-sensitive cities will be used to formulate the South African vision for relevant partners. The Lighthouse was presented to the broader water sector at the WRC Symposium held in September 2013. Since the planning fraternity are considered critical to the adoption of the WSD concept, it is envisaged that the WRC will engage with partners such as the DST to conceptualise and drive the development of a WSD simulator, i.e. a virtual reality macro-planning design platform, to bring the concept to life for decision-makers and planners. In addition, new projects will be initiated. Two projects (a feasibility study and a WSD Community of Practice Programme) that emanated from two directed calls for proposals have commenced in the 2013/14 cycle. The aim of the WSD Community of Practice Programme is to strengthen the researcher/stakeholder and implementer interface in order to leverage partnerships and facilitate, manage and document technology-transfer opportunities from the design phase through to the piloting and adapting phases. The next five years will be guided by the research needs as defined through pilots, engagements and adaptation of design approaches and technology adoption for South African environments.
Figure 5. SA’s transition to Water Sensitive Cities: ‘Two histories, one future’ (adapted from Brown et al., 2009) (WRC Project No. K5/2071)