Multiple conceptions of sustainable urban water systems: problem or asset?
Journal article, 2010

This paper examines various conceptions that researchers and practitioners in the sector have about sustainable urban water systems, to discern what these conceptions are and whether they are complementary or divergent. The study is based on a literature review and field studies, including semi-structured interviews. The results show that the conceptions held by the various actors are largely complementary, the most important divergence between them concerning time. The time perspective of local politicians is shorter than that of researchers and practitioners. A long-term perspective needs to be reinforced in decision making and planning to encourage research and development (R&D) for both technology and organizational structures to be better able to meet the sustainability challenges that urban water systems face. This reinforcement partly concerns fostering better understanding between different groups of actors, for example, through the joint (re)development of visions of and strategies for sustainable development, but also concerns clarifying at the national level how R&D in the Swedish water sector should be organized and financed.

Urban water system

Time perspective


Sustainable development (SD)



Ulrika Palme

Chalmers, Centre for Environment and Sustainability (GMV)

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Environmental Systems Analysis

Water Policy

1366-7017 (ISSN)

Vol. 12 3 425-443

Subject Categories

Water Engineering

Public Administration Studies

Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified

Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources



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