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Frameworks for urban water sustainability

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Abstract Integrated water management, sustainable water management, water sensitive cities, and other formulations are often presented as the latest in a series of paradigms of water management. This implies a unified approach, while urban water debates reflect a wide diversity of political, social, and technical viewpoints. Five distinct but overlapping frameworks for urban water sustainability are evident in research, policy and practice, reflecting wider environmental theory, politics, and discourse. Sustainable development is based on meeting the needs for water and sanitation of the urban poor. Ecological modernization focuses on policies to improve water efficiency and treatment through technological innovation and individual behavior change. Socio‐technical framings aim to understand how change in water systems occurs across physical and institutional scales and addresses the co‐evolution of infrastructures, cultures, and everyday practices. Urban political ecology analyses water infrastructure in terms of relationships of power, pointing to the unequal distribution of costs and benefits of urban water management for the environment and citizens. Radical ecology addresses the relationship between human culture and non‐human nature, proposing fundamental reorganization of society to solve ecological and hydrological crises. Characterizing alternate frameworks of urban water sustainability provides clarity on the underlying assumptions, methods, and politics across a diversity of approaches. Frameworks may be deployed strategically to deliver policy impact, or may reflect deeply held political or epistemological standpoints. Understanding different conceptions of urban water sustainability provides the basis for more constructive dialogue and debate about water and its role in sustainable cites. This article is categorized under: Engineering Water > Planning Water Human Water > Water Governance Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness

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Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness
Human Water > Water Governance
Engineering Water > Planning Water

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