Sustainable water solutions for Indonesian and Australian cities: recommendations from Greater Jakarta

With increasing urbanisation and effects of climate change, managing water infrastructure – to minimise flooding, support healthy environments, and ensure sanitation and supply requirements are met – is a challenging task. The Greater Jakarta region (Jabodetabek) has an estimated population of more than 10 million people, and could substantially benefit from new technologies for managing its water.

But these technologies need to be complemented by education in water sensitivity, strengthening of laws and administration, and inclusive decision-making to make a significant difference in providing sustainable solutions.

That’s the conclusion of an initial investigation of the future water supply for one of the fastest growing regions in the world. The research was supported by The Australia-Indonesia Centre, with researchers from Monash University and the Institut Pertanian Bogor (IPB), and assistance from the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering and the Akademi Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia (Indonesian Academy of Sciences).

“The results highlight that while technological solutions are needed, most of the improvements that underpin the vision were largely focused around new methods of water governance that involve capacity building, equitable decision-making processes and increased collaboration amongst water managers and users,” says Dr Briony Rogers of Monash University.

As Indonesian and Australian cities look to transition towards more sustainable water management, there are significant lessons to be learned and shared from the emerging concept of ‘water sensitive cities’.

The team set out to do three things: assess Jakarta’s socio-technical water management practices using the water sensitive cities framework; explore the potential for water sensitive principles to be applied in Indonesia; and scope an interdisciplinary research agenda for advancing water sensitive practices in Indonesia and Australia.

Briony says there’s substantial scope in Jakarta for leapfrogging – adopting modern systems and technology without going through intermediary steps – and have identified potential pathways for doing so.

The team also argues that other cities and regions in Indonesia could benefit from Jakarta’s experience, and that collaboration between Indonesian and Australian cities and water management experts could provide benefits for both sides. The initial project has made a good start in bringing key people together.

The project had two phases: a preliminary scoping study, which brought together the available data on the region’s water resources and their management. Among other things, it showed a measurable impact of climate change, that the majority of water resources were polluted, most people in the region relied on bottled and pumped bore water, and 97 per cent of residences and businesses were un-sewered.

A two-day workshop involving around 60 people from academia, government, industry, and the general community then discussed these challenges and explored pathways to the future.