Sustainable Development and Urban Water Management Linking Theory and Practice of Economic Criteria

University dissertation from Linköping : Linköping University Electronic Press

Abstract: The interest in using criteria and indicators for assessing activities in relation to sustainable development is increasing. This dissertation analyses the potential for using economic criteria for assessment of urban water management in relation to sustainable development. The analysis consists of three parts.First, to analyse the basis for economic criteria, there is a need to categorise general frameworks, disciplinary theories and practical assessments in order to explore what the economic dimension of sustainable could imply, depending on general assumptions about challenges, goals and means. Consequently, a number of general frameworks, economic theories and urban water assessments were categorised.Second, based on this analysis, a set of economic criteria was chosen, consisting of maintenance of water infrastructure, affordability, cost-recovery, effectiveness and development potential. For each criterion, one or more indicators are suggested.Third, these indicators were tested in three cases from Swedish municipalities: introduction of volumetric billing in a low-income apartment area, increased water supply in a growing city and introduction of kitchen waste disposers in a city with a stagnant population.On the basis of the application, introduction of volumetric billing in a low-income area resulted in deteriorating affordability and effectiveness, whereas cost-recovery improved. Introduction of kitchen waste disposers in a stagnant area was questionable from an effectiveness viewpoint whereas the water infrastructure was well maintained. In the growing city, increased income and population determined the outcome of the affordability, cost-recovery and development potential criteria, which all improved.The study also found that using economic criteria and indicators for assessment of urban water management in relation to sustainable development requires a continuous balance between the universal and the context specific, that is, between the criteria and indicators used and the water infrastructure change being assessed. This emphasises that criteria used should relate to all dimensions of sustainable development as well as of the decisiveness of involving actors and other stakeholders in sustainable development assessments.