The role of assessment tools in a sustainability framework for the Australian water industry

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Over the last decade, water cycle management has become an increasingly challenging marketplace of ideas. Citizens have demanded increasingly higher environmental performance from their water service providers, while governments demand greater financial efficiency and the service providers cope with population and climatic pressure. At the same time, the range of practical information tools and planning approaches available to water cycle managers has expanded, including strategic environmental tools such as life cycle assessment, health risk methodologies like quantitative microbial risk analysis, cost assessment techniques like life cycle costing and approaches to public engagement like choice modelling (Blamey et al., 1998). Despite these intellectual developments, some institutions outside the industry have argued for a return to simpler cost-benefit analysis. Under these circumstances in which the variety of practical, political and intellectual influences on water cycle planning has grown, managers are looking for clarity on the best ways to plan for the future development of their water, sewerage and stormwater systems. A consortium of researchers from the Centre for Water and Waste Technology, the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering (UNSW, Sydney), the Sustainable Water Division of the NSW Department of Commerce (Sydney) and Chalmers Industriteknik (Chalmers University, Sweden) worked together for the Water Services Association of Australia to develop a sustainability framework for evaluating urban water systems. The objective of the project was to develop a common methodology for evaluating the overall sustainability of alternative options for urban water systems. This includes large-scale options for cities as well as configurations of water sensitive urban developments or single high rise developments. In particular the project aimed for a common methodology for evaluating overall sustainability of alternative options for urban water systems, noting the range in alternative tools and approaches currently being used. This article describes the key tools and outcomes of the project.
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Lundie, S
Peters, G
Ashbolt, Nicholas
Lai, Elizabeth
Livingston, Daniel
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UNSW Faculty