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Melbourne, VIC, Australia
I'm interested in designing sustainable places and currently work on increasing green infrastructure and water sensitive urban design in Melbourne, Australia.
I'm passionate about carbon friendly farming and am involved in my family's zero carbon beef and forestry small farm in Victoria, Australia
Hi Mitul, yes I agree with Simon that there is already a lot being done to regulate new builds (as you suggest tying this to permission to build), and I think this does support small lots as well. In Melbourne the local planning policies often 'require the use of stormwater treatment measures that improve the quality and reduce the flow of water discharged to waterways. This can include but is not limited to: collection and reuse of rainwater and stormwater on site; vegetated swales and buffer strips; rain gardens; installation of water recycling systems; multiple uses of water within a single manufacturing site; direction of flow from impervious ground surfaces to landscaped areas.' However, there is still a need for city-wide models of water flows, that would be very useful for city planners. We often do not know where stormwater run-off is flowing, which drains are at capacity, where backed up drains will overflow. But this is an issue that needs to be addressed at a city or suburb scale, not lot by lot. In Australia we have stormwater drains that run direct to waterbodies, they are not mixed with the sewerage system and sent to treatment plants, like is common in the USA. Very specific data is needed to model the stormwater drains accurately, and often the drains are so old that no one really knows their exact locations and angles that they run on, etc. Might be able to deploy some technology that can give us a better picture of our drainage network?
As an additional thought, on the idea of funds, we really do need to reward farmers and other land managers for positive action. Not just pay for those who are doing a bad job, to improve. On my family's farm we have created riparian habitat where there used to just be stock access to the waterway, resulting in pugging and no native vegetation. Now we see the reintroduction of a range of native animals. More importantly we have reduced run-off by establishing bulky perennial pastures across the farm. In fact we have eliminated runoff in most rain events, and when we have a storm event the run-off that does come off is cleaner than the water in the stream. Our neighbours do not do the same because they don't have the interest. However I believe that if farmers were rewarded with economic incentive (it could be an indirect incentive, such as paying lower rates to local council), more farmers would look to follow the lead of those already doing best practice on farms. It pains me to see the description of agriculture in the 'challenge brief' - Agriculture plays two distinct roles in watershed health. It acts as a buffer against (sub)urban sprawl and development pressure. It also impairs water quality by discharging bacteria and various chemical pollutants.' Agriculture can also play a 3rd really important role - improving river health, riparian habitat, cleaner waterways. And as Trevor has noted, there are very important downstream impacts of this. So let's focus on positive incentives for the leading landowners, so that those practices become common across whole regions.