As urban water systems become increasingly stressed from climate change impacts, population growth and resource limitations, there is growing acceptance by scholars and practitioners of the need to transform practices towards more sustainable urban water management. However, insights into how strategic planning should be made operational to enable this transformation are limited; there is a need for a reliable diagnostic procedure that could assist planners, policy analysts and decision-makers in selecting and designing strategic action initiatives that best fit an urban water system's current conditions to enable desired system changes. This paper is the first step in the development of such a diagnostic approach by proposing a scope for an operational procedure that maps a system's current conditions and identifies its potential transformative capacity. It then reviews five existing analytic frameworks, which are influenced by transitions theory and resilience theory, and applies them each to a common empirical case study of successful transformative change in the stormwater management system of Melbourne, Australia. In this way, the paper explores how existing frameworks could potentially contribute to a diagnostic procedure for selecting and designing strategic action initiatives from the perspective of dynamic transformative change. The paper found that such a procedure should guide an analyst through steps that develop descriptive, explanatory and predictive insights to inform which strategic action initiatives best fit the current system conditions. The types of insights offered by different analytic frameworks vary, so a diagnostic procedure should be designed with a particular aim, problem or question in mind and the underpinning framework(s) selected accordingly.
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