Our understandings of water and how they translate into our decision making

Jessica Weir

Mar, 2009
Product type: 
Research outputs
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This paper was prepared for the ACT Government Workshop Planning for our Future - Securing Canberra's Water, at The Australian National University on 10 March 2009.

I have been invited to discuss some of the intellectual frameworks behind the decision making around water. As the Planning and Land Authority wrote in the discussion paper that accompanies this workshop, such conceptual thinking is often 'glossed over' with the majority of our time and attention focused on the 'nuts and bolts of technical discourse'. This can make 'it difficult for many people to question business as usual'. Yet, it is my argument, that questioning business-as-usual is precisely what we should be doing.

To achieve sustainability we need to go beyond the rhetoric of triple bottom line thinking, to examine where we get our ideas, and how these ideas may set the terms for our decision making. This was also noted in a key interdisciplinary publication about sustainability (Fischer et al. 2007). In this paper, scholars from diverse disciplines identified 'long term and foundational issues' such as our values, beliefs, and motivations, as central to our commitment to sustainability, and our capacity to put long-term sustainability targets into short-term policy.

In this talk I will examine some influential conceptual legacies, and how being able to clearly identify these legacies will help us in our water planning. My research experience comes from engaging with Murray River issues, and I draw out themes of relevance to considerations of sustainable water supply for Canberra.

Last reviewed: 12 Sep 2016