Blue + Green = liveability

By Gabrielle Stannus

Water! How do we make every drop count in an urban environment? That is one of the key questions asked by the Water Services Association of Australia in its newly released paper: Blue + green = liveability: The value of water to liveable communities.

Released at the same time as its Urban Water Update 2019: Drought, Growth and Liveability, the Water Services Association of Australia’s (WSAA) new Blue + green = liveability paper reminds us that more can be done in an urban environment to extract social and environmental value from water. The effects of drought have intensified over many parts of the country 1 and this situation is not likely to change soon. The Bureau of Meteorology predicts below average rainfalls, and warmer than average days and nights forecast over the coming months 2 .

As the peak industry body representing the urban water industry, WSAA is acutely aware of the need to do more with less water. Its members provide water and sewerage services to over 20 million customers in Australia and New Zealand and many of Australia’s largest industrial and commercial enterprises.

Blue + green = liveability
“Our Blue + green = liveability paper builds on previous work by WSAA to highlight the contribution of urban water to liveable, sustainable and productive cities and regions. Australian cities and regions are in a period of rapid transformation as populations grow, our climate shifts and communities seek improved infrastructure delivery for a better way of life,” says Adam Lovell, WSAA’s Executive Director.

“The urban water industry enables broader liveability outcomes including contributing to green and blue infrastructure to deliver benefits to physical and mental health by making our communities cooler, healthier and more attractive places to live, work and play,” says Adam.

Adam continues: “While planning for green and blue infrastructure can start to unlock improved liveability outcomes there are no clear pathways to deliver and fund these initiatives. The water industry is committed to taking action and we call on Australian and New Zealand governments on all levels to collaborate with us and take leadership to enable green and blue infrastructure to deliver liveability outcomes for cities and regions by:
•Harnessing the full water cycle with all water supply options on the table and by coordinating the incorporation of stormwater
•Integrating our approach to planning
•Implementing an effective framework for measuring health and liveability benefits
•Creating new funding and financing models for green and blue infrastructure as social infrastructure.”

“Our paper shares the messaging that ‘greener spaces make urban places better and create places that are more appealing to work, play and relax in and help us feel a sense of place and community within our busy lives.’ We also agree that green space (or green infrastructure) and blue infrastructure need to be considered earlier in planning processes and that working together through an integrated approach to planning will create better outcomes,” explains Adam.

“Opportunities from the fulfillment of our recommendations would include the consideration of green and blue infrastructure as an essential first step in integrated planning. This would include requiring new developments to include green and blue infrastructure and specifying a certain amount of irrigated green open space in local planning instruments,” says Adam, “We know governments have an increasing focus on improving liveability in our cities and so WSAA engages with all levels of government and its members across Australia and New Zealand to advocate for a new National Water Initiative that includes a focus on the liveability of our cities and regions across the urban water cycle.”

Adam explains that WSAA’s initial focus after the release of this paper is to establish and maintain collaborative relationships with other sectors and governments: “The next step will be to identify where those relationships can make the most impact. We encourage the greenlife industry to continue advocating on the role of green infrastructure in liveable communities and the benefits of collaboration and coordination between various sectors,” concludes Adam.

Greener Spaces, Better Places
“Greenlife Industry Australia is very supportive of the Blue + green = liveability paper. It is the green blueprint for liveability of urban areas,” says Peter Vaughan, CEO of Greenlife Industry Australia, “The WSAA paper complements the Greener Spaces, Better Places program.”

Formerly known as the 202020 Vision, Greener Spaces, Better Places is the national initiative bringing together academia, business, government, community groups and the green industry to share knowledge and find new ways to work together to make sure that as our cities and towns grow, so too do our green spaces.

“Through the Greener Spaces, Better Places program, Greenlife Industry Australia are working with Hort Innovation and other stakeholders to continue to bring industry and commercial entities together to deliver living green infrastructure to Australian communities. We are promoting what the research has put forward about the importance of greenlife for health and being and other aspects to urban living,” says Peter.

Peter says that the paper’s release is a timely reminder of the value provided by previous work the greenlife industry has undertaken with WSAA to improve industry water efficiency through the Smart Approved WaterMark program.

“We need to continue to make every drop count! Water is the most important resource we have for plant production and we must ensure that we treasure every drop that is available to us,” says Peter, “Without water there is no green infrastructure.”

1.Bureau of Meteorology 2019, Climate of the 2018–19 financial year, viewed 23 October 2019,

2.Bureau of Meteorology 2019, 'Climate outlook overview', Climate outlooks - weeks, months and seasons, viewed 23 October 2019