Liveability is a term widely used in literature, but there does not appear to be a consensus around its definition. This is a problem for the water management sector who are increasingly extending the articulation of their services to capture the liveability value of water in the urban landscape. Recognising that liveability is a dynamic and multi-dimensional concept, this paper seeks to explore the differences in meaning found in the literature and highlight the context that drives them. Specifically, we ask: How has academic scholarship and broader non-academic literature conceptualised liveability and how has it been interpreted in the context of urban water management? To answer this question we conducted a systematic review of academic and non-academic literature, identified attributes of liveability found therein, and looked for commonalities among different groups.
The results show that conceptualisations of liveability differ between academic and non-academic literature but transport and connectedness emerge as central liveability themes in both. Interpretations of liveability within urban water management, on the other hand, focus primarily on the role of water in enhancing public greenspace often in the context of stormwater management and water governance.
This paper contributes to the understanding of liveability, by identifying commonly used liveability attributes and discussing possible drivers of divergent conceptualisations of liveability: influence of policy, institutional logics of research, and growing interest in technical and engineering fields. We also discuss how distinct conceptualisation of liveability within urban water management can be attributed to the changes in water governance and its role in enhancing public greenspace. Collectively, this suggests that more critical understanding of liveability is needed - one which recognises the heterogeneity of different conceptualisations and the external and internal context that drives them.