Sustainable urban water futures in developing countries: the centralised, decentralised or hybrid dilemma

This paper explores whether a mixture of centralised and decentralised urban water systems is preferable for sustainable urban water management. This is of importance for developing countries where there is continued demand for expanding urban water infrastructure. Processes for determining the combination of centralised and decentralised urban water solutions remain largely ad hoc. Using the South West Pacific as a case study, a multi criteria decision analysis (MCDA) methodology drawing on expert elicitation was employed to assess the technical, economic, environmental and resilience performance of urban water infrastructure alternatives; assessing water supply, sewage and stormwater systems. The MCDA analysis was then systematically contrasted with both a series of recommended infrastructural investment plans and the desires of local technocrats in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Results demonstrate a high level of agreement between the MCDA outcomes and local stakeholders, favouring hybrid infrastructure. Conversely, international consultants' infrastructure recommendations continue to reflect traditional engineering paradigms.