Page 29 - Final Report-8 NO TRANSPARENCY

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Resilient urban systems:
a socio-technical study of community scale climate change adaptation initiatives
Overview of potential impacts to services
The preceding subsections indicate that energy and water systems at Aurora and WestWyck face
multiple risks and hazards. Although none of the risks are critical, they have the potential to affect energy
and water related functions that residents currently expect and rely upon. For example, if recycled water
systems do not function, or passive design features are insufficient to provide expected comfort levels,
then these systems may be regarded as failing. In all systems, including distributed systems, user ‘needs’
and expectations tend to change and adapt with the system. A household that has been accustomed to
tank water is likely to be more adaptive in water using practices, varying demand to meet supply. Hence,
demand in this case is not a ‘given’ and ‘needs’ are relative and shifting. Moreover, there are also inherent
risks associated with current grid-connected/ centralised systems, where such relationships between supply
and demand in times of water scarcity can be expected to be different. The assessment of energy and
water systems at the two case study sites against a range of current ‘needs’ for related services reveals the
following three key issues:
1. Service needs or functions that are reliant on potable water or rainwater (drinking, food
preparation and hygiene) are susceptible to a significant range of identified hazards.
As currently
provided, these functions all rely on off-site processes and structures including water supply catchments,
mains distribution networks and water treatment facilities. As a result they are susceptible to a wide range of
off-site as well as on-site hazards.
2. Blackouts due to system failure or peak load and prolonged drought affecting water reserves
both have the potential to significantly impact existing service needs.
In both cases, sudden and
catastrophic system failure would have major consequences and so backup and / or information systems
are required to allow users to understand system constraints and to adapt and prioritise service functions
3. How technologies are configured and experienced can significantly shape notions of needs, risks
and hazards.
For example, current system configurations at both sites involve flushing toilets ensuring that
removal of human waste is vulnerable to water scarcity or pump failures. An alternative configuration, such
as composting toilets would perform the same function without a vulnerability to changing water supply or
technical conditions. However, widespread use of such technologies depends upon a coming together of
cultural practices, perceptions of human waste services and technology availability. As introduced above,
‘needs’ and notions of risks and hazards are culturally constituted and constantly changing and therefore
the prediction of future potential impacts to system services is problematic without a detailed understanding
of these changing needs.