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Friday 29 Nov 2019Developing new Blue-Green futures: multifunctional infrastructure to address water challenges

Dr Emily O'Donnell - University of Nottingham

Harrison 170 14:30-15:30


There is a recognised need for a fundamental change in how cities manage water in response to increasingly frequent and extreme rainfall events, drier summers and urban expansion. Approaches centred on ‘living with and making space for water’ are increasingly adopted internationally and address the full water spectrum (floods to droughts). Such approaches are essential components of visions for Blue-Green futures. This includes resilient and sustainable approaches using nature-based solutions, natural flood management and Blue-Green Infrastructure (BGI) that enrich society through the provision of multiple co-benefits, e.g. access to public green space, recreational opportunities, aesthetic enhancements, and improved management of environmental processes such as flooding, drought, urban heat, water and air pollution. Such futures ultimately lead to healthier, more cohesive communities with improved quality of life. This presentation will explore and compare perceived benefits, multifunctionality, beneficiaries, evidence of cross-organisational collaboration to deliver BGI, and associated challenges in four international case study cities; Newcastle, UK; Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Ningbo, China; and Portland, Oregon, USA. A novel Implicit Association Test to investigate subconscious perceptions of Blue-Green vs. Grey infrastructure will also be introduced.


Dr Emily O'Donnell is a Research Fellow in the School of Geography at the University of Nottingham, and leads the research on the EPSRC Urban Flood Resilience project that investigates transformative change in urban water systems. Emily is also exploring how Blue-Green futures may be developed as new forms of environmentally sustainable urban governance as part of a British Academy TUKIC (Tackling the UK's International Challenges) grant, using case studies in Newcastle (UK), Portland (Oregon, USA), Ningbo (China) and Rotterdam (the Netherlands).

Her current research focuses on identifying the barriers to the widespread implementation of Blue-Green infrastructure, and how these may be overcome through changes in perceptions, practice and policy. She is also developing a novel toolkit to investigate implicit (hidden) perceptions of Blue-Green infrastructure that contributes additional insight that cannot be captured by explicit tests (e.g. questionnaires) that suffer from social desirability bias, thus uncovering hidden perceptions that are more entrenched in respondents’ value systems.

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