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Achieving Sustainable Urban Water Resource Management in Europe

Robert Brears

This paper seeks to reveal, from multiple European case studies, how urban water managers encourage behavioural/societal change through the use of demand management tools to promote water conservation. The paper tests two hypotheses: First, institutions play a dominant role in empowering citizens to participate in the sustainable management of water resources. Second, human behaviour/societal changes, rather than technological changes, are the key driver of achieving a society that conserves water resources. This study is about how urban water resources can be managed in a sustainable way that balances demand and supply and reduces conflict between all the various users of water. However, the question is: what does sustainability mean? While the term 'sustainability' has been a buzz-word in various multilateral reports, media and political commentary there is in fact no unanimous international definition of the term. This study seeks to determine what the term 'sustainability' means and how it is applied in the context of urban water resource management. Using the theoretical framework of institutionalism, this paper explores how urban water managers, using the three pillars of institutions: knowledge, values and regulations in a mutually reinforcing way, promote behavioural/societal change in order to manage water resources sustainably.

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