An interesting transition has been occurring in urban areas of large cities such as Melbourne. Such cities have been progressively transitioning from a water system focussed solely on water supply, drainage control, sewerage management and waterway environmental health to a broader philosophy which also accounts for the overall water cycle and more sophisticated water sensitive urban forms along with a wide range of water sensitive urban practices. Together this transition has led to a more liveable city. The progressive build-up of regulatory frameworks supporting each of these stages, however, has resulted in criticism that these complex and overlapping frameworks too often hinder innovative practices. Critics argue that regulatory frameworks have become a barrier to better practices and need reform.

This paper aims to contribute to an understanding of why urban water management regulatory frameworks in Australia may not be optimal for the development of water sensitive cities. It articulates the mapping of regulatory space for Melbourne, Victoria following the initial concept of Hancher and Moran (1989). Regulation is conceived in broad terms, in this context envisaged as five separate but overlapping systems involving; water as a natural resource; service delivery and price; the built environment; environmental health protection and public health protection. The logic of each of these domains is presented including the underlying philosophy of each system, the prominent actors within each and its most significant regulatory tools. Multiple webs of regulatory tools are documented across these five functional domains, forming an overall system of considerable complexity employing a wide diversity of regulatory tools. The implications of these regulatory maps for the broader analysis of regulatory barriers and risk allocation practices are then discussed in the context of preliminary findings from a Melbourne urban case study.


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