In rapidly growing urban contexts, water plays a pivotal role in the transitions the urban environment goes through to sustain the quality of life of its population. Spatial planning and design are essential for the facilitation and manifestation of such transitions. Focusing on Bhuj, a rapidly growing Indian city in a hot arid desert climate, its crucial yet changing sensitivity to urban water flows over time is assessed.
The concept of water sensitivity is coined as a goal to pursue by the Water-Sensitive Urban Design approach. In India, however, much of the urban design and development processes are of an unplanned and informal nature, seemingly inhibiting the water sensitivity of urban transitions. Reviewing spatial planning paradigms and their manifestation in space in Bhuj over time, however, brings to light a pre-existing water sensitivity. Yet it also shows a shift from the supply security-oriented ingenious watershed expansion to catastrophe-steered and urban expansion-driven water system negligence. Review and discussion of past and present urban water transitions and management points out drivers, barriers, and their interrelationships, to enable and advance water-sensitive urban development tied to local history, traditional knowledge, and context specificities.