Designing for System Change: Innovation, Practice and Everyday Water

  • Dena Fam University of Technology
  • Abby Mellick Lopes University of Western Sydney


In this paper we examine the installation and trial of a novel system of integrated water management from the perspective of household users in order to reveal the importance of considering social practices in the adoption of innovative water management systems, and in the process reframe the ways in which the implementation of water conserving technologies is understood. Drawing on a case study in peri-urban Victoria, Australia, this paper analyses the experiences of 25 household residents over an 18-month period to determine how household users adapted their everyday water use (or not) to a new water management system. This research focuses on three important domains of practice in water management – toileting, cleaning and communication – to reveal the tension between established and novel practices. Our findings demonstrate that the conventional focus on technocratic and engineering-oriented components of system innovation by the water sector may actually impede the successful implementation and use of innovative, potentially more sustainable, water and sanitation systems. This paper suggests what is needed is an approach to system innovation that takes daily discourses, community knowledge, practices and the localised contexts of water users as critical in influencing the successful uptake of small-scale innovative water systems.
How to Cite
Fam, D., & Lopes, A. (2015). Designing for System Change: Innovation, Practice and Everyday Water. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 14(3), 751-764. Retrieved from