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IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung Infrastructure stress from negative consumption and the re-ordering of consumer-utility relations.

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Presentation on theme: "IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung Infrastructure stress from negative consumption and the re-ordering of consumer-utility relations."— Presentation transcript:

1 IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung Infrastructure stress from negative consumption and the re-ordering of consumer-utility relations Timothy Moss IRS – Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning, Erkner (Germany) UKWIR workshop series Traces of water: Developing the social science of domestic water consumption, London, 9 February 2006

2 IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung Structure: 1.From water stress to infrastructure stress: a shifting narrative of crisis in the Berlin region 2.Challenging the modern infrastructural ideal 3.Re-ordering consumer-utility relations in practice a)The case of cost allocation b)The case of technological innovation 4.Questions for discussion

3 IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung 1. From water stress to infrastructure stress Drivers of the water stress scenario, early 1990s : Anticipated population growth Anticipated strong regional economic development (encroaching on water protection zones) Anticipated increase in water consumption as living standards rise Planned expansion of infrastructure networks Recognition of limits to regional water resources (low precipitation, over-exploitation for agriculture/industry, reduced mining water extractions, …) Responses……………

4 IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung Water saving campaign: (BWB, 1995)

5 IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung Water management plan for Berlin metropolitan area: (MUNR/SenStadtUm, 1994)

6 IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung Schemes for re-directing water flows: (Moss, 2001)

7 IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung Realities of consumption……..

8 IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung Water consumption in Berlin,

9 IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung Water consumption in Eastern Germany,

10 IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung Explanations for the decline in water consumption: Not in response to above plans and schemes, or even to water- saving campaign, rather: Massive deindustrialisation >>> loss of major water consumers Introduction of full cost pricing in E. Berlin/Germany Replacement of domestic and industrial appliances with modern, water-saving versions Additional contributory factors to over-capacity: Legacy of network expansion in divided Berlin Post-reunification network expansion and upgrading in East Substantial regional development funding focussed on infrastructure systems in E. Germany Municipalisation of water supply / sanitation as part of democratisation process Dominance of large-scale, centralised technical solutions

11 IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung Novel problems of chronic over-capacity: Physical/technical: –Slow thro-flow threatens water quality, increases risk of pipe corrosion, creates odours from sewers Physical/structural: –Reduced water consumption >>> rising groundwater levels >>> damp/flooded cellars Environmental: –Water wastage through flushing (artificial consumption) Economic/financial: –Repayment of investments requires high unit costs Economic/social: –Affordability of spiralling prices (high fixed costs) & challenge to underlying logics of infrastructure management …

12 IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung 2. Challenging the modern infrastructural ideal Modern infrastructural ideal of the integrated, networked city (Graham/Marvin 2001) developed on 4 pillars: 1.Ideological trust in the modernising and civilising impacts of urban infrastructures 2.Theories and practices of modern urban planning: infrastructures bringing order to the fragmented form; city as machine or organism; mastering nature 3.Infrastructures supporting new types of mass-scale production and consumption >>> parallel standardisation of technical networks 4.Nation states and municipalities supporting drive for natural monopolies providing universal services; supply-oriented strategies of infrastructure roll-out

13 IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung Problematising the modern infrastructural ideal (Graham/Marvin 2001) 1.The urban infrastructure crisis: deterioration of services, 1970s- 2.Changing political economies of infrastructure development: privatisation, competition, unbundling 3.Collapse of the notion of comprehensive urban planning: technocratic, ineffective, selective 4.Physical growth of metropolitan regions: scale, unevenness 5.Challenge of social movements and critiques: environmental, feminist, consumer, post-colonial

14 IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung Challenges to extend-and-supply / predict-and-provide logics: Water consumption not following ever-upward curve to meet (extended) capacity Consumption levels harder to predict Growing spatial differentiation undermining ideal of universality Notion of the consumer under scrutiny –the missing consumer, the non-compliant consumer, the network as consumer Relevance and direction of demand management in question Infrastructure a liability, not just an asset –Path dependency of infrastructure systems restricting future options Declining consumption, over-capacity and the modern infrastructural ideal

15 IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung 3. Re-ordering consumer-utility relations in practice Initial responses of Berlin utility to over-capacity: 1.Reduce investments, limit financial risks 2.Reduce infrastructure where possible: closing STPs, WWs, re- routing flows, downscaling when retrofitting 3.Raise unit prices, introduce (higher) flat rates……….

16 IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung a) The case of cost allocation Utility passes increased unit costs of past investments/maintenance on to consumers Consumers reduce consumption to minimise costs Utility sees consumers as part of the problem, not the solution The water quantity problem here is that people are not using enough water for our infrastructure (engineer at Berlin Water Utility) >>> strategy of disengagement (cf. water-saving campaigns of past) Consumers see selves as captive customers of (now) part-privatised utility –Weak link in the chain of beneficiaries (municipalities, environment, workforce)

17 IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung Relations at crisis point in rural Brandenburg Higher levels of over-capacity Higher investment debts Massive population decline Spiralling unit costs for water/sanitation >>> Hunger strikes >>> Protest marches >>> Challenging obligatory connection to local water/sanitation utility

18 IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung b) The case of technological innovation Soakaways in Berlins new development sites: unearthing water flows, uncovering social relations Total new development area Areas of stormwater percolation Karow-Nord147 ha.52 ha. Rummelsburger Bucht 64 ha.35 ha. Adlershof382 ha.185 ha. Openings for large-scale use of soakaways despite over-capacity: 1.Focus on water quality (stormwater run-off) 2.Resilience to new uncertainties of consumption 3.Compatibility with centralised sewer system 4.Huge cost of alternatives (underground retention basins)

19 IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung How the technology affects social relations Wider range of actors involved: landscape architects, property owners, developers, parks departments, water protection agency, … Re-negotiation of responsibilities between actors:..... over the use of space..... over rainwater disposal..... over damage liability..... over the distribution of costs

20 IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung By studying phases in which technical systems undergo radical change, we might expect to gain new insights into basic dynamics and properties of these systems (Summerton 1994:2) 4.Questions for discussion 1.In what ways does the issue of declining consumption and network over- capacity challenge conventional understandings of demand, consumption and the consumer? 2.Is the willingness of utilities to engage closely with consumers dependent on their perception of whether consumers can be enrolled to support their strategies? 3.How are consumption practices caught up in wider social, political and economic development issues? What does this mean for the ways water managers need to work with the often hidden interdependencies between cities and their infrastructures? 4.What does the Berlin experience tell us about the vulnerability of apparently stable and entrenched infrastructure systems to pressures for change and their ability to respond?

21 IRS Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung


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