Water sensitive planning : an integrated approach towards sustainable urban water system planning in South Africa
Rohr, Hildegard Edith
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“Without water, there is no life on the earth; it is the most important of all elements. It must be managed in the best possible way” (Cunningham, 2009). Balanced and self-renewing ecosystems are not new phenomena, developed by earlier civilisations, and still part of our modern cities and societies today. However, the increasing urbanisation, densifications and related urban challenges of the modern urban environment is also increasing the pressure on sustainable resources world-wide. Countries responded to the concept of Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) in many deferent ways; the USA formulated the concept of Low-Impact Development (LID), the UK‟s approach was Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SUDS), and New Zealand formulated their approach as Low Impact Urban Design and Development (LIUDD). Aiming to integrate all of the above mentioned approaches Australia developed the concept of Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD). WSUD refers to the interdisciplinary cooperation of water management, urban design and landscape planning which considers all parts of the urban water cycle, combines water management functions and urban design approaches and facilitates synergies between ecological, economic, social and cultural sustainability (Wagner, 2010). In the local South African context it is now time for a fundamental paradigm shift to identify and protect sustainable resources, specifically stormwater, not only as a challenge, but a valuable resource playing a critical role in the urban planning and design process and overall sustainability of South Africa’s water resources. This approach includes the rethinking of the role of layout-planning to direct the desired future of our cities. Water Sensitive Planning (WSP) is introduced by this research, as an initiative to guide current planning and urban design approaches in South African environments, based on the concept of Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM), with the objective to manage the urban water cycle as a whole, and not as separate entities (Barton, 2009). It bridges gaps between various sectors and provides a platform for trans-disciplinary planning, which is a challenge for sustainable water resources management in South African cities. In order to determine whether South Africa has identified stormwater as a valuable resource, integrated in the urban planning process, the research focused on Potchefstroom’s Local Municipalities approach towards Water Management and Urban Planning. Local policy frameworks such as the Spatial Development Framework (SDF), Integrated Development Plan (IDP) and the Water Service Development Plan (WSDP) were evaluated in an attempt to determine the priority and approach towards integrated water management and spatial planning. Planning recommendations referred to international best practices and case studies from Australia, to guide local South African urban planning and urban design approaches to protect the valuable natural resources in the urban environment, by redefining the current role of layout-planning in a local context, and to direct the desired future and sustainable development in South Africa.