Case study: Resilience and water security in two outback cities- Project
Glenn Albrecht, Helen Allison, Neville Ellis and Megan Jaceglav, Murdoch University
Summary of the Project
This project explores the adaptive capacity of two relatively large inland regional centers facing different challenges relating to climate change and water supply on two sides of the continent. Kalgoorlie in WA and Broken Hill in NSW are towns of around 30,000 and 20,000 respectively in semi-arid environments with limited local water supplies. Each has a rich history based on mineral resources and a developing tourism industry. However, they face different resilience problems in the face of climate change and water supply. Kalgoorlie is reliant on transported surface water through the Golden Pipeline from Mundaring Dam about 650 km from the catchment near Perth. Kalgoorlie has no alternative water source other than a possible desalination plant and another pipeline from coastal Esperance over 350km south. Kalgoorlie will have little direct climate change impact but a strong climate change impact on the source of its water supply. The Perth catchment is under intense pressure with desalinization already supplementing declining rainfall and aquifer extraction. Despite the likelihood of increasing costs for potable water, Kalgoorlie has a strong economic resource and population base that will continue to be supported by Government. On the other hand, Broken Hill has a much diminished mining industry but strong social base and a new economy as an ‘outback’ tourism destination. With growing requirements for water BH is, however, totally reliant on limited local ground water supply or a possible coastal desalinization plant 350 km away. The Australian Government is currently supporting further investigation into regional groundwater resources and the potential for managed aquifer recharge. Without a full understanding of the likely impacts of climate change, extreme variability and the increased technical difficulties and economic costs of providing potable water in remote communities, the future resilience of Kalgoorlie and Broken Hill is not secure.
Aim and Objectives of the Project
- To outline the challenge of water security and sustainability for the inland cities of Kalgoorlie and Broken Hill
- To identify the historical and current processes which interact to create this challenge, and which also provide the basis for a systematic understanding water resource use
- To provide a range of water security future scenarios that will assist in planning for and adapting to climate change and other pressures
- To consider the infrastructure, cultural and organisational change needed to meet the water security and sustainability challenge for each city.
A Resilient Regions Assessment Process (RRAP) will enable delivery of project objectives. It will be developed by the research team to produce a complex adaptive systems framework to evaluate water issues in the two cities. It will consist of:
- Literature Reviews
- Resilience Histories
- Key Informant Interviews and a community forum - Understanding the Issues
- Resilience Futures, which will include different scenarios based on differing degrees of water scarcity, as defined within technological options and water price modelling.
The literature reviews will:
(a) briefly review the principal methodological literature underpinning the project in order to establish authenticity and
(b) assemble the relevant technical and cultural data on the two cities and their immediate regions in the context of domestic, commercial, agricultural and industrial demands for water.
Resilience histories will document for each city, the biophysical foundation for water security and account for the ways the challenges of water needs have been met in the past.
Key informant interviews and two Community Water Forums (one in each city) will be used as a two-way conduit for information gathering and sharing. The community water forums will facilitate both stakeholder and community involvement.
Participation statistics: 20-30 key informant interviews in each city/region
- To identify key informants’ historical and current understanding of water supply in the context of extreme climatic events, chronic environmental and climate change and responses to change pressures in the form of community networks, organizational capacity, attitudes, leadership and skills that assist adaptive capacity to manage change and sustain community-led water resilience
- To understand their view of the future evolution of water supply-related issues in their settlement.
- To identify the infrastructure, cultural and organisational capabilities required to respond to the challenges of understanding complex adaptive systems and resilient and sustainable water supply and management
The two community water forums will be professionally organised and managed events where ‘water’ stakeholders will be invited to display their policies and practices and where community members can gain information. As two-way conduits, they are the prime mechanism for the researchers to characterise community understanding of water supply issues past, present and future.
In addition, the research team will present and display professionally produced future scenarios (see below) to gain community responses to issues such as water cost thresholds and drinking recycled water (the Toowoomba experience).
Resilience futures will create, in the context of different climate change scenarios, a range of water technology and cost models that include e.g., supply from coastal desalinisation, full water recycling to potable standards and groundwater options.
The futures scenarios will be designed to challenge past and current thinking about water and generate creative and adaptive responses in stakeholders and the wider community. Such future scenarios will also be presented to stakeholders in interviews as a prompt for establishing the range of potential adaptive responses to water security in a drying climate. The scenarios will also be presented as poster displays in the community forum with the opportunity for citizens to provide immediate responses to the research team and written feedback using email and pre-paid return envelopes.
The research team will:
- Produce baseline research data on past and contemporary water issues for each city/region
- Identify stakeholder understanding of a complex issue such as water security
- Evaluate institutional and organisational capacity to manage change
- Evaluate community willingness to live with the change
- Refine a research method that can be used and replicated in other contexts in Australia
- Write a book chapter containing an innovative research methodology/approach to resilience in the face of water issues and a comprehensive analysis the issues facing leaders and communities in inland water constrained cities.
Community Engagement Plan
As indicated above the community water forums will be the key mechanism for community engagement and will help to inform the community of the implications of a drying climate on the community’s capacity to adapt and the factors that confer resilience.
The objective of the community engagement plan is to
- identify a broad range of key informants that are comprehensive and inclusive,
- to gather information from a wider representation of community interests via a community forum
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