Water-sensitive planning (WSP) is a branch of sustainable development that combines urban and regional planning with management of water resources, in order to improve people’s quality of life and to preserve water and natural resources. The development of this new scientific-professional branch in Israel was led by Naomi Carmon and Uri Shamir from the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Following the demographic forecast that Naomi made for the master plan “Israel 2020,” according to which, during the years 1990-2020, approximately one million additional people would be living along the coastal plane, she presented the following question to Uri Shamir – at the time, the Head of the Grand Water Research Institute at the Technion: What are the implications of this addition in terms of the amount and quality of water in the coastal aquifer, the largest water reservoir in the country? As a result of this question, in the beginning of the 1990s, the scientific-professional branch of WPS was established (Carmon and Shamir 1997-H; Shamir and Carmon 2007-H; Carmon and Shamir 2010-E).
Along the lines of this question, the first studies of Carmon, Shamir and their students dealt with the protection of Israel’s coastal aquifer and, more specifically, with issues of stormwater and drainage management and their connection to the planning of land-use and infrastructure, and planning of the urban landscape and land-cover. The main goal of the first studies was to make possible infiltration of good quality runoff water to the groundwater in the coastal aquifer, while achieving additional social and economic goals (Carmon, Shamir and Meiron-Pistiner, 1997-E; Katz, Carmon, Burmil and Shamir 1998-H; Burmil, Shamir, Carmon and Be’eri 2003-H).
The findings and conclusions of these studies, in addition to the numerous meetings that Carmon and Shamir held with professionals, academics and administrators, who deal with the management of stormwater and drainage in Israel (see, for example, a lecture in Hebrew given at the Israeli Building Society, which summarized the state of the knowledge as of 2003 link*) led to a paradigm change in the area of urban drainage in Israel: from a definition of stormwater runoff as “damaging water,” a nuisance that needs to be removed from settled areas as quickly as possible, to an approach that sees runoff as a resource to be managed in order to achieve a variety of goals in open spaces and built-up areas.
In the last decade (as of this writing, in 2016), more research and publications have extended the field of WSP. From the point of view of WSP goals, the emphasis moved from concentration on quantity and quality of water resources, mainly runoff and groundwater, to a wide range of ecological and environmental goals, as well as social and economic goals that benefit both people and nature (see a lecture at Haifa University in 2012 link* and the slides from Naomi’s lecture that summarizes 20 years of WSP in Israel – H/link). From other points of view, the extension includes a move from the urban to both urban and regional watersheds and exploration of alternative water sources, such as the use of grey water and water saving in the urban sector (Be’eri, Carmon and Shamir 2005-H). It is related also to rehabilitation of urban and regional streams and to uses of stormwater in the planning of inter-city highways (Markus, Gasith and Carmon 2014-H). Furthermore, the researchers examined the organizational and legal structure of stormwater management in Israel, and they published a document on the topic, which serves as part of the Master Plan of the Water Sector in the country; Carmon and Shamir 2011– H; see also chapter 11 of that Master Plan / link).
Carmon and Shamir (see the full list of publications on WSP at the Technion /link) personally assisted the process of creating a National Outline Plan that integrates water considerations with land-use planning (TAMA #34/b). In recent years, water considerations are being gradually assimilated into the work of the regional and municipal planning committees and WSP “best practices” are currently found in projects – mostly projects of neighborhood and park planning – throughout the country.
The two latest developments in this field: First, in the spring semester of 2016, for the first time in Israel, a full academic course on the topic of WSP – Water-Sensitive Planning – was delivered to students in the urban and regional planning track and students of landscape architecture in the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning at the Technion, together with students of environmental studies in the Faculty for Civil and Environmental Engineering. Second, a new study by Naomi and her colleagues, undertaken together with researchers from Monash University in Australia, evaluates projects for stormwater management that use the WSP approach, which have been implemented in urban communities in Israel. The study examines the simultaneity and synergy in achieving the diverse goals of WSP. This research also deals with aspects of policy and regulation, with the intent of assisting in removing obstructions on the way to fuller realization of Water-Sensitive Planning in Israel (Alon-Mozes, Portman, Carmon, Golden and Shapira 2016-E).More in Research fields: