Ecological Urbanism and Water Sensitive Urban Design have a central contribution to make in protecting and caring for people, nature and water in cities but readings of Urban Political Ecology evidence how ecological metaphors in urban design can easily translate into discriminatory urban development processes. This paper posits that for UPE to become meaningful for urban design practice, it is necessary to move beyond a critique. Instead, the insights of UPE should be pro-actively mobilized to develop a new vision of water sensitivity. The paper therefore identifies ways in which the key learnings of the critical social sciences, namely UPE, can be mobilized to support Water Sensitive Urban Design practice.
How can ecological urbanists imagine new, more politically astute, forms of water sensitive living, charting design processes that not just recognize but also actively question and challenge uneven socio-ecological dynamics? In answering this question, the goal of this article is to make use of critique from UPE to influence Ecological Urbanists’ goals and activate their political alignment with agendas that prioritize social equity. In imagining a new form of WSUD, we tried as much as possible not to over-instrumentalize UPE by rejecting the suggestion that some UPE ‘lessons’ or ‘insights’ could simply be inserted into ecological urbanism. On a different direction, we argue for a different emphasis in WSUD that does not deny the causes of current environmental degradation, pollution and depletion but, on the contrary, actively takes issue with and challenges the extractive and exploitative roots of contemporary urbanization processes.