Modern cities look similar in many aspects. Solutions in energy and water supply or transportation are solved very similarly on a global scale. This is in stark contrast to the variations in local material and cultural conditions in which the different cities are embedded. In the GLORIWA project, we investigate this contrast using the example of urban water management.
The idea of global socio-technical regimes provides a clue as to why cities in arid regions of the world (e.g. Beijing) pursue very similar water management strategies to Zurich, which is much richer in water. A socio-technical regime is the constellation of technologies and social structures, which have established themselves around these technologies. In the water sector, the sewer system is a visualization of the socio-technical regime concept.
In sewage systems, water is used, among other things, as a means of transport for various pollutants, entailing specific user habits and other social structures. In global cities, the socio-technical solution of using water through a sewerage system as a means of transport for various forms of pollutants is so dominant that not even the most visionary entrepreneurs can achieve a breakthrough towards more sustainable and locally adapted solutions than sewerage systems.
This global dominance of socio-technical constellations can be summarized under the scientific concept of socio-technical regimes. In GLORIWA, we trace the most dominant global socio-technical regimes in urban water supply and examine them to find out how they can prevail against potentially more sustainable, locally adapted solutions.