The Ethics of Regional Water Planning: Planning and Management of Water Resources In a Growth Region

The Ethics of Regional Water Planning: Planning and Management of Water Resources In a Growth Region

Justine Lacey (University of Queensland, Australia) and Phil Heywood (Queensland University of Technology, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-775-6.ch013
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Providing water infrastructure in times of accelerating climate change presents interesting new problems. Expanding demands must be met or managed in contexts of increasingly constrained sources of supply, raising ethical questions of equity and participation. Loss of agricultural land and natural habitats, the coastal impacts of desalination plants and concerns over re-use of waste water must be weighed with demand management issues of water rationing, pricing mechanisms and inducing behavior change. This case study examines how these factors impact on infrastructure planning in South East Queensland, Australia: a region with one of the developed world’s most rapidly growing populations, which has recently experienced the most severe drought in its recorded history. Proposals to match forecast demands and potential supplies for water over a 20 year period are reviewed by applying ethical principles to evaluate practical plans to meet the water needs of the region’s activities and settlements.
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Regional water management has multiple facets which include planning, designing, constructing, operating and maintaining the infrastructure associated with water supply. There are also questions of allocating costs across a multitude of uses. This implies a need to produce balanced water solutions in situations of variable needs and values, which are in turn shaped by physical, social and historical contexts. Rather than concentrating on purely scientific or technical analyses of these issues, this chapter aims to provide an ethical analysis of water infrastructure planning which examines how decisions about water planning and management are made and justified in these wider contexts. The importance of integrating an ethical analysis into water planning frameworks is that it provides us with a way of assessing how our practical solutions fare, and how they might be modified to ensure equity and social justice in distributing water resources among human and non-human uses.

This chapter specifically focuses on issues of water infrastructure planning in South East Queensland (SEQ), Australia, a region experiencing unprecedented population growth, at the same time as emerging from the most severe and protracted drought in its recorded history. In these contexts, water security has been identified as a vital aim in achieving long term and effective regional water planning solutions (Queensland Government, 2005a, 2005b). Thus, there are two major challenges to be addressed in SEQ. First, securing the region’s water supply, and second, managing growth in demand for water and associated infrastructure. In addressing these challenges of balanced planning, it is also critical to adopt ethical standards so as to preserve equity and participation in our planning processes, not only in the immediate future but also for the longer term future of the region.

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