Living with the Water Paradox [COMPETITION WINNER!]

May 2010

The Water Paradox

May 6, 2010 1:35 PM
Kim Ratanavong

Water is Life. It's the biny broth of our origins, the pounding circulatory system of the world. We stake our civilizations on the coasts and mighty rivers. Our deepest dread is the threat of having too little - or too much.

- Barbara Kingsolver (p.38, 2010)

Following the theme of this years competition - Where you live with what you have – our study will focus specifically on the risk and opportunities on the above mentioned climate change induced water issue: the abundance and the lack of water.

Water naturally was identified as the key issue of the climate change/peak oil induced urban planning problem for the chosen area of study - FIsh Market in Sydney. There are three main reasons: one, due to its geographical location in which the area is surrounded by Water - Sydney Harbour and Blackwattle Bay; two, the main key economic and social drive of the area (Fish Market and the harbour) being highly related to water in nature; and most importantly three, due to Australia's high popularity of coastal living and water being one of the key environmental, social and economic concerns of Australia, which is the driest continent on Earth.

Figure 1: Our study area and its vulnerability analysis

In beginning to explore Sydney's issue of climate change/peak oil induced water topics,  it became evident that there was clearly the 'paradox' of water issues -- mostly in extremes of the too much of (the abundance) and the too little of (the lack of)  water.

Figure 2: The conflicts of flooding, drought, city being invaded by fire and water

Figure 3: The complex relationship between urban issues (the four focus issues in boxes) identifying the drivers and indirect consequences between issues.

Figure 4: The Water Paradox and the related problems and opportunities

It also became clear that while there were evident 'risks' and 'threats' due to the Water Paradox of Climate Change and Peak Oil, there ALSO were opportunities created through the Water Paradox, which could provide the new innovative ways of designing the decentralised infrastructures, systems and the way that we live in the neighborhoods facing the changes of Climate Change and Peak Oil.

Hence the following questions became the basis of our study:

1. What are some of the major aspects of the urban sytsem that will be significantly impacted by the Water Paradox and how sustainable is it, anyway?

2.Is there a way that these risks/uncertainties/conflicts and opportunities of the Water Paradox could work together to provide more positive impacts on the urban environments?

3. What is important in developing the 'innovative' ways of designing, infrastructures and the way humans interact in their urban environments/systems?

And our resulting Resilient City Principles were identified as:

_Awareness of the significance of Water Paradox as the basis of the functioning, harmony and beauty of future urban environments

_open and forward thinking society in which the interelation of the water, food, energy and waste systems can evolve and improve accordingly to the change of physical environment and social pressures

_integrated society in which the government/business/institutions/citizens work together to foster self-sufficiency and more efficient ways of urban living

Figure 5: The Resilient City System proposed in response to the Water Paradox

Kingsolver, B. in National Geographic, p.38, 2010 Apr




The Water Paradox

Where you live with what you have - the climate change induced water issues.

This study explores the most ubiqutous climate change paradox present in many of coastal cities around the world - the abundance and the lack of water in addition to, risk + opportunities of the climate change induced water issues.

The proposal demonstrates the risks and potentials of the coastal/bay area developments and communities such as Fish Market area in Sydney, Australia.

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