Page 48 - Final Report-8 NO TRANSPARENCY

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Resilient urban systems:
a socio-technical study of community scale climate change adaptation initiatives
• Reduced pollution loads to water ways;
• Lower discharge rates to storm and sewerage mains;
• A lower carbon footprint;
• Increased urban amenity;
• Reduced demand for potable water and electricity (which helps to delay mains infrastructure
capacity upgrades); and
• Lower community vulnerability to water shortages, drought, mains water contamination and supply
Yet of these benefits, only WestWyck’s ability to reduce its load on mains sewerage systems is recognised
by the wider institutional structure in which it sits (in the form of lower service charges). In this operating
context, where all impacts from provision infrastructure are unaccounted and service costs do not reflect
a greater range of costs and benefits inherent within them, future innovation in infrastructure design and
adoption has no incentive to pursue models that offer lower impact, higher public goods and are more
adaptive to climate change related disturbances.
Managing climate uncertainty
The uncertainty associated with potential climate change impacts poses a key challenge because the
enablers identified through this research impart resilience in different ways and at different timescales.
Comparatively, they also require very different approaches along the design-build-operate pathway.
Infrastructure systems also have life expectancies ranging from decades to over a century and, in most
situations, decision-makers will not know the full range of climate related impacts that will test infrastructure
resilience. Inevitably, longer-term investments in provision systems face greater uncertainty. In this context,
making system design decisions are unavoidably challenging.
As this project has indicated, technical, social and institutional enablers of resilience impart different qualities
of resilience to infrastructure systems. Bearing in mind that this proposition requires further exploration,
preliminary findings would suggest that:
enablers are better suited to conditions where a higher degree of certainty exists about
short-term future risks. Despite their role in providing a guarantee against future uncertainty, technical
system components that provide functional diversity or redundancy still rely on the assurance that
environmental or institutional conditions do not change radically. They assume that the basic make-
up of system structures and functions remain relevant and viable.
enablers that impart resilience to infrastructure systems are likely to be particularly
beneficial in conditions of greater uncertainty, over the medium to long-term. Characteristics such as
the capacity for learning and cross-scale interaction can enable institutions to identify where systems
are more or less vulnerable to emerging conditions and organise resources needed to adapt system
design and functions to better reflect those conditions.
enablers of resilience are likely to be more valuable under conditions of even greater
uncertainty, again over the medium-longer term. In contexts where operating conditions are highly
volatile or involve a high possibility of surprise, characteristics such as strong social capital and
agency are likely to prove highly beneficial to systems, enabling them to adapt and evolve rapidly
even when technical and institutional system components fail.
Figure 7 emphasises under which conditions the different types of enablers should be emphasised.