The Republican Party are currently selecting their Republican candidate for the 2012 US Presidential elections. There are three candidates left in the race: Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul (Rick Santorum dropping out only last week).
Mitt Romney is well ahead and looks to be the likely winner (but somehow the Republican party can’t quite bring themselves to support the likely winner at this point in time).
US Republician Party Presidential Canditates
I attended the Water Sensitive Urban Design Conference
in February this year and came away also thinking about this notion of picking a winner. The urban water industry is going through a large shift towards an approach to diversity and resilience, largely driven by the need to serve greater populations and delivery in a world conscious of a changing climate. The old winner, the Reagan of the water industry, was centralised supplies and treatment. The new contenders are stormwater, greywater, rainwater tanks, recycled water, indirect potable reuse and desalination. But who is the new winner?
Well, based on the latest thinking presented at WSUD2012, stormwater is well ahead and likely to the next generation winner. Across state governments, local governments, and academia there is a push to integrate stormwater into urban water supplies, rather than be seen as a nuisance on the side. It is the Mitt Romney of the urban water industry. The conference was very much about this support for stormwater, with virtually no dissenting voices to be heard. This has been followed up by the Centre of Water Sensitive Cities releasing an updated ‘Blueprint 2012; Stormwater Management in a Water Sensitive City
The only significant dissenting voice was from Prof Richard Ashley (University of Sheffield) who suggested that perhaps the winner is not stormwater, or water full stop. Perhaps the winner is urban planning, with a landscape design approach taken first, and then water considered at a later stage when land use, community needs, infrastructure strategies have all been built in.
This is quite controversial, but something I am starting to think about more and hoping to try in future projects. It was something that I also raised in a talk I gave on liveability and water; at a local scale water may not always be that important in improving or maintaining liveability.
Although I don’t have any hard evidence I feel that the urban water industry is not quite united behind this stormwater ‘winner’ yet either. It might be a case of trusting new technology. It might be a risk adverse approach and an issue of water quality and public health, it might be due to variability in supply and storage requirements. Whatever it is, the stormwater industry is struggling to get the mainstream support it needs.
There are a few questions: is stormwater really going to be the winner and how do you create mainstream industry support? Romney seems to bet on the strategy of outlasting (and outspending) the competitors. The current stormwater approach seems to be ‘build the research and rest will take care of itself’. Another option might be more engagement with these other sectors (or water source industry groups) and perhaps even a more public campaign around the value of stormwater and sharing the vision of a future city that uses stormwater in all aspects of living.
Footnote: this isn’t a reflection on anyone’s political views or support for the candidates above, especially not mine.