Highlighting Potable Water Resilience

Resilience Shift’s work on Potable Water Resilience highlighted at the National Lifeline Utilities Forum in New Zealand.

Resilience Shift grant recipient Tracy Hatton (Resilient Organisations) will be joining resilience practitioners from across New Zealand to demonstrate how the resilience of potable water can be enhanced through industry collaboration and coordination. See programme.

In April 2019 the Resilience Shift published our ‘Potable Water Primer’, with 17 recommendations to boost resilience adoption in the water sector. The primer was produced as a result of 19 interviews with water sector operators and stakeholders and consideration of policy frameworks, advocacy bodies and academic reports.

Our aims were to explore attitudes of individuals and organisations about potable water resilience. This included both the current and desired state of water infrastructure resilience, examining resilience building initiatives, understanding perceived barriers that impede resilience improvement and identify incentives that assist resilience efforts.

Resilience Shift work to date has told us that key stakeholders are often either unaware of the value that resilience can bring or are constrained by a lack of resources or support in terms of how to embed and enhance resilience.  Collectively, these result in common issues that erode resilience enhancements.

For the water industry, a resilient network is one that can continuously supply the quantity of water desired (or accepted) by customers, at a quality that meets health standards. 

In the developed world where this primer is focused, sufficient quality and quantity of potable water is regarded as an essential function for a thriving community. Potable water is used for many functions other than drinking, including sanitation, hygiene, health care, food production, and economic activity. 

Collaboration is key

The primer emphasises a need to consider resilience at a system level. For example, where a large urban centre has multiple organisations involved in water supply, the collective responses of the organisations is as important as the individual components. The involved organisations need to collaborate within and across industries to ensure resilience of the system. 

Among the recommendations were engaging communities in resilience, creating public resilience metrics and building and utilising cooperative networks for to embed resilience thinking at project inception.

New Zealand: A case study in cross-industry coordination

Resilient Organisation’s work on the primer highlighted a number of ways New Zealand is taking a lead in coordinating resilience enhancement of water systems.  Natural hazard exposure has created a significant interest in building resilience at multiple levels. Earthquakes occurring in 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2016 have given both private and public sector organisations real events as references to create what one respondent described as a ‘step-change’ in prioritisation of resilience improvements. 

Lifelines Groups have been  established in most regions to provide a forum for regionally based collaborations between utilities, emergency services, scientists, and other relevant professionals.  

Remaining Persistent for Water Resilience

Achieving a resilient water network is not easy. But it is vital that we look at the multitude of small actions that together can bring us closer to this goal and persist with our efforts even when significant barriers may appear. Water is an integral part of our lives, both in its requirement for life, but also in its ability to create healthy communities, providing innumerable social benefits to our communities. Building a resilient water network into the future helps enable current and future generations not only to survive but also to thrive. 

 

 

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