This paper considers methods and mechanisms for effectively engaging stakeholders in order to achieve more sustainable urban development. It highlights recent developments in sustainable water management and energy saving in Mediterranean cities through partnership in the EU-funded project E2STORMED. The stakeholders in this project are predominantly local and regional decision-makers, with whom engagement has been successful and productive. E2STORMED has built on lessons-learned from previous collaborative EU projects such as SWITCH and AQUAVAL projects. In the SWITCH project it was recognised that (Jefferies & Duffy, 2011): successful engagement of research-users can have a high impact and encourage use of research outputs; multiple stake-holder research processes are challenging and expensive; the more stakeholders the more complex the situation and the more difficult it is to influence, adapt and improve the current situation; a strategic planning process, tailored to local conditions, can be a powerful tool for delivering improved conditions; supported collective decision-making among all stakeholders is a key aspect for delivery of change. In summary, we have the knowledge, even the tools, but how can these be effectively translated from research into practice? E2STORMED has adapted the successful components of previous projects to collaboratively deliver strategic water planning in six Mediterranean cities.
E2STORMED addresses the challenge of improving energy efficiency within the urban water cycle by promoting the use of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS). Two academic partners (Polytechnic University of Valencia, Abertay University) have worked collaboratively with six Mediterranean cities: Benaguasil (Spain), Pisa (Italy), Zagreb (Croatia), Cetinje (Montenegro), Zabbar (Malta) and Hersonisos (Greece). Throughout the project, a transition management framework has been introduced in each city. Transition from conventional urban stormwater management towards more sustainable and energy efficient schemes is being analysed in each case. This process involved identifying and organising key actors, identifying problems and developing a long-term integrated vision and strategic action plan for stormwater management. In order to deliver collaborative and effective stakeholder engagement Regional Working Groups on Energy Efficiency (RWGEE) were created. These involve public and private stakeholders, covering key sectors: authorities, water companies, users and academia. The role of these RWGEE is of paramount importance as they provide the link between the academic vision and the decision-maker perspective, thus catalysing the paradigm evolution and establishing the best way to deliver this science to society.
RESULTS & DISCUSSION
The six cities cover a heterogeneous range of geographical, hydrological, political, socioeconomic and cultural conditions. They experience common challenges and difficulties in delivering the transition; however, there are distinctive local and regional conditions which lead to site-specific barriers. These must be overcome through prioritisation of different objectives in each case. The transition starting point of each city is dramatically different. An adaptation of an urban water management transition framework (Brown et al., 2009) has been considered. For example, Cetinje is working hard to be a sewered and drained city; public health is still the major issue. By comparison, Benaguasil began some years ago to reach the next level as a waterway city, integrating social, amenity and environmental benefits to its ongoing transition process. In Zabbar, flooding and water scarcity are the major issues to be tackled. Throughout the transitioning journey it has become clear that the challenges, priorities and mechanisms required in each location are different, but the stakeholder engagement process and the transitioning framework can apply equally to them all. Some of the cities, such as Hersonissos, are facing rapid development for tourism and need to decide quickly how best to manage stormwater more efficiently. Zagreb and Pisa are well established urban centres with limited space where the priority is to retrofit solutions into the existing urban infrastructure and to integrate new approaches with existing traditional solutions. In addition, some cities are committed to a more sustainable and energy efficient future as signatories of the Covenant of Mayors. All those examples reinforce the need to engage stakeholders from multidisciplinary teams within the RWGEE to address the existing problems and to assist them in recognising the possible benefits and opportunities that can be delivered through SuDS. Considering the challenges, difficulties and differences, what's the recipe for success? How does E2STORMED translate research into practice? Early in the project it was clear that a transfer of knowledge from researchers to stakeholders was critical, it was necessary to provide training (first on SuDS, later on transitioning) to overcome the initial inertia felt by city partners. They were already aware of their problems and challenges, but needed (through training and knowledge exchange) to raise their awareness-of and confidence-in possible solutions. Critical support for these was provided throughout the project. The cities were also assisted to develop their RWGEE, and were provided with an agreed timetable for progress. Good communication, networking and sharing of problems, progress and ideas has contributed strongly to the project success. Regular meetings, hosted each time by a different partner, have encouraged active travel to each site which has clearly lead to preparation and progress for the host city. These meetings have strengthened networking opportunities by seeing problems and solutions experienced by others. Equally, the academic partners have learned from each other and from the cities, realising the specific scale of each problem and thus being able to better address the process from a research perspective.
Close collaboration on a topic of mutual interest, addressed with a proactive attitude by the non-academic partners has enabled successfull establishment and development of RWGEE. The impact of those groups will lead to an improvement of sustainability and energy efficiency (through water management initiatives) for all of the cities. It is important that the momentum generated within this initiative continues beyond the life of this project. The RWGEE have become new learning alliances which have the potential to enable stakeholders to ensure continued sustainability for better stormwater management and its transferability to other cities. In some cases the realisation of overlapping agendas and opportunities (such as the Covenant of Mayors) constitute an excellent framework to develop water management actions for cities committed to increased energy efficiency.
The E2STORMED project (Reference: 1C-MED12-14) described in this paper is being funded by the MED Programme of the European Union. Authors would also like to express their gratitude to the E2STORMED project partners for their help and willingness to collaborate in this work. REFERENCES Brown R. R., Keath N., Wong T. H. F. (2009). Urban water management in cities: historical, current and future regimes. Water Science and Technology, 59 (5), 847-855. doi: 10.2166/wst.2009.029. Jefferies. C., Duffy. A. (2011). The SWITCH Transition Manual. University of Abertay Dundee. Scotland. ISBN 1-899796-23-1.