School of Humanities

Understanding the History of Water Sensitive Cities

water sensitive cities

"Understanding the History of Water Sensitive Cities, 'Project A2.1 : Understanding social processes to achieve water sensitive futures', Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities"

The Chief Investigators in Project A2.1 are historians Professor Andrea Gaynor, Professor Jennifer Gregory,  Associate Professor Lionel Frost (Monash), Associate Professor Seamus O’Hanlan (Monash),Professor Peter Spearitt (UQld) with sociologist Associate Professor Jo Lindsay (Monash), social psychologist Dr Kelly Fielding (Monash), landscape architect Dr Meredith Dobbie (Monash) and historian Dr Ruth Morgan (Monash).


The CRC for Water Sensitive Cities brings together the inter-disciplinary research expertise and leadership to undertake research that will revolutionise water management in Australia and overseas. In collaboration with over 80 research, industry and government partners, the CRC is delivering the socio-technical urban water management solutions, education and training programs, and industry engagement required to make towns and cities water sensitive. With a research budget in excess of AUD $100 million, our research is guiding capital investments of more than AUD $100 billion by the Australian water sector and more than AUD $550 billion of private sector investment in urban development. 

The CRC  includes 35 research projects, grouped into four major research themes or projects.  Our interdisciplinary approach places practitioners, policy makers and regulators in inter-disciplinary teams with researchers whose expertise is in areas such as: water engineering; urban planning; commercial and property law; urban ecology; climate science; social and institutional science, organisational behaviour; change management; the water economy; risk assessment; social marketing; and community health. The teams are located at research hubs in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, and Singapore.

The objectives of Project A2:1 are to understand and document the social and historical processes of domestic water use in Australian cities, in order to better inform future policy and interventions. This is a multi-disciplinary study that brings together urban history, a large-scale representative survey and targeted focus groups to map historical and contemporary urban water use cultures and practices in order to better understand how and why we use water as we do, and to use this information and evidence to better inform future policy agendas. The main outcomes will be a typology of water use cultures and contexts – including information about community values, ideals and perceived risks and recommendations for the development of effective and socially acceptable water sensitive interventions.