Abstract

Water shortages and pollution in China are severe situations caused by rapid economic development and urbanization. The current water-conservation policies focus on implementing new technologies and management strategies at important spatial nodes while neglecting the significance of the response from the community and the public. In this paper, the elements that influence the public participation of water conservation within the community are analyzed and divided into three levels: the internal world elements of the residents, the different individual characters of the residents, and external world elements. Among these three levels, the internal world element level, including the desire to realize oneself, is crucial, as it will significantly strengthen an individual's participation activity once motivated. Based on Maslow's five-level theory of human needs, to establish a model of public participation in water-conservation communities, economic benefits, environmental improvement benefits, and the self-fulfilling satisfaction of participation will become the motivation for the model to function. In a new project, reclaimed water landscapes are established in the community, and eco-recreational activities with water-conservation themes are organized to guide and encourage public participation to foster water-conservation consciousness and to establish aging water-conservation guiding policies and implementation methods in the community.

INTRODUCTION

Water consumption has been increasing continuously as the population increases, industry develops and the urbanization level rises. In particular, China is currently faced with a severe water resource crisis, which is reflected in the low level of freshwater resources per capita, the low efficiency of utilization and pollution-induced water shortages. The 2009 World Development Indicators estimated that the freshwater resources per capita were 6,624 m3 around the world in 2007. This value is 2,132 m3 for China, less than one-third of the world's value, which means that China is one of the 13 countries with a poor water resource situation. Approximately 400 cities have a water shortage, accounting for two-thirds of the total cities, and 110 cities have a severe water shortage situation (Zhang et al. 2009). By 2030, the total population of mainland China will reach almost 1.5 billion, up from 1.395 billion in 2018 (see Figure 1), and the urbanization rate will exceed 65%, up from 59.58% in 2018. The urban population will reach more than one billion, and the total water consumption will reach 700 billion m3. Additionally, the water resources per capita will decrease to lower than 190 billion m3, and the quantity of sewage discharge will be more than 100 billion m3 (Wang & Wang 2012; National Statistics Bureau 2018) (see Figure 2). The rapid development of urbanization has prominently aggravated issues that are centralized within cities, including the contradiction between water supply and demand, the limitation of water pollution, the improvement of the water environment, and urban flood prevention and drainage. In China, the demand for water resources involves almost every aspect of the national economy, such as industry, agriculture, construction, residents’ lives, etc. Serious water shortages cause restrictions on the process of urban modernization, the growth of the gross domestic product (GDP), and the improvement of residents’ living standards in China (Zhang et al. 2009). The water crisis, caused by severe shortages of water resources and the deterioration of the water environment, has become a bottleneck that constrains the sustainable development of the economy and society in China. China's Water Scarcity: Recommendations for selected water resource management issues from the World Bank in 2009 indicates that the damage caused by the water crisis account for approximately 2.3% of the GDP in China (Xie et al. 2009).

Figure 1

Urbanization rate from 1949 to 2018 (Data source: National Bureau of Statistics).

Figure 1

Urbanization rate from 1949 to 2018 (Data source: National Bureau of Statistics).

Figure 2

Analysis of Chinese population and water consumption variation (Wang & Wang 2012).

Figure 2

Analysis of Chinese population and water consumption variation (Wang & Wang 2012).

Accordingly, the existing protection and planning of water resources are more concentrated on the technical and operational aspects. With the efforts from national departments and professional workers, the allocation of water resources and the protection of water ecology have been improved to some extent. However, currently, water environment improvements and water resource utilization measures in China, such as the construction of sponge cities, are still conducted in a top–bottom method: the government plans the projects, then lower-level departments place bids and finally, planning and design and construction companies finish the projects. The level of public participation action in water conservation and awareness remains at a minimal stage without substantial promotion measures, thereby causing huge sewage emissions, waste and the destruction of the ecological environment during enterprise management, urban life and city construction. Thus, the protection of the water environment and the natural eco-system is replaced by the pursuit of the utilitarian. The current river basin and regional planning pertaining to the water resources, which has an increased level of concern, hardly covers the local planning of the water resources or the breakthroughs and connections from the perspective of city planning. Thus, water-conservation policies, indexes, regulations and technologies are therefore difficult to put into practice in the details of daily life, making the regulations fragile and powerless.

In September 2005, for instance, the societal water-conservation constructions referred to within the Information on the Current Key Works of Water-Conservation Construction in Society from the State Council enforced by the State Council (State Council 2005) focused on city water conservation, the reconstruction of water-conservation technology and the utilization of sea water, ignoring the necessity of public participation. Similarly, from the Evaluation Index System and Methods of Water-Conservation in Society (GB/T28284-2012) (Nanjing Hydraulic Research Institute 2012) carried out by the Ministry of Water Resources, only the promotion of water conservation, education and training, the supervision of public opinion and the establishment of report mechanisms are referred to in the project index of water-conservation management. The form and importance of public participation are unfortunately ambiguous. Regarding the water-conservation actions in society, public participants are reluctant to respond with the roles to be educated, failing to arouse or strengthen the willingness of active action.

In the Comprehensive Planning of National Water Resources, approved by the State Council and drafted by the Ministry of Water Resources (Li et al. 2011) in November 2011, both the watershed planning and regional planning chapters emphasized technology and policies, which included the balancing of water levels, water conservation and sewage prevention, resource exploration, and the zoning of water function and limitation control. Even in today's well-known sponge city construction campaign, which is widely promoted and implemented in China, water environment control and rainwater utilization are mostly based on the technical considerations of municipal engineering and urban planning and still have not been widely participated in or supported by the public.

The areas of society management enhancement, public guidance and the importance of public participation in the protection and utilization of water resources have not been fully studied. It is therefore practical to bring public participation into the policy framework of the water crisis with the aim of obtaining the widespread social effects of the protection initiative of water resources. Public participation is very popular in developed countries; thus, in the areas of water environment protection and water resource utilization, those countries generally have established bottom-up mechanisms or public response networks to guarantee the overall implementation and promotion of protection, with a series of mature procedures in place to guarantee the technical implementation and social supervision in this field. In green infrastructure planning or storm water management areas in the United States and some European countries, multiple factors, such as comprehensive technologies, legal items, financial support, regulations, public participation and rational and scientific methods for planning and design, are completely integrated to achieve a good implementation result (see Figure 3). Among these factors, public participation has obviously become an indispensable part of water resource protection.

Figure 3

Comprehensive ways of river basin planning in Western countries.

Figure 3

Comprehensive ways of river basin planning in Western countries.

Water resources are a consistent topic when referring to people's livelihood. The healthy development of a city closely affects the quality of people's lives. Urban citizens come from various industries and fields, and it is therefore beneficial to insert the awareness of water resource protection into every family and individual. Water-conservation policies and technology are closely connected with people's lives and their personal experiences. This not only promotes the support and supervision of national policies and regulations by the public but also increases the right to speech and safeguards self-interest. Additionally, the large population base brings practical economic benefits to cities. The mechanism of public supervision should thus positively be incorporated into the planning of urban water resources and water environmental planning to encourage public participation and further, to make citizens join the action actively and effectively.

GUIDANCE AND STRATEGIES OF PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN THE WATER-CONSERVATION COMMUNITY

Public participation and the social background and characteristics of the contemporary community

Currently, with the development of the social economy and urbanization, there is a contradiction in community building. The differences in economic status and professions and the related changes in work and organization patterns make urban populations increasingly migratory between different cities and habitations. The traditional concept of Gemeinschaft in the community has become ambiguous or weakened and has disappeared beneath the urbanization, globalization and shock of the new urban lifestyle in the information age (Durkheim & Halls 1984; Steven 2001; Vaisey 2007). On the other hand, the self-organizing mechanism of society and preferential treatment enable urban residents to reorganize under some common interests and goals and to establish a new context of connection on the modern community platform. However, integrated mass society tends to erode the community and reduce the interaction among the residents (Stein 1960), and this tendency may result in, to some extent, the belonging of urban citizens to certain geographical spatial areas ceasing to exist and interactions no longer being limited to within residential spaces (Wirth 1938). In another aspect, the overall quality improvement of the social public and information convenience seem to make people establish new close connections within a larger area through their attention to issues of public interest, such as issues related to regional culture, environmental crisis and ecology. Louis Wirth thought that the relationships of individual urban citizens tend to be segmented, transient, superficial and utilitarian. However, the urban life of citizens is generally colorful, and their activities, functions and roles develop with continuous strengthening and mutual interdependency (Wirth 1938). There are still cohesive neighborhoods in the cities of modern society (Michael 1995). Under this format, countless eco-villages and zero-carbon communities exist in Germany, Sweden, the United States, and Canada (Liu et al. 2016; Ristianti 2016; Garcia-Cuerva et al. 2018; Barclay & Klotz 2019), indicating that the integrated utilization technology of stormwater and protection concepts of water resources have been well accepted and entered into every family. Regarding the level of public participation, the protection of water resources has become an actual part of real life, far beyond the promotions and slogans. This protection not only comes from the tradition of democracy and public participation but also benefits from government support and promotion, which serve as the positive power to assist in the implementation of policies and programs.

In China, social groups do not play a key role in the action of water resource protection. The reasons for this lie in governmental neglect and the common qualities and cultural basis of the public. Community activities mainly revolve around community service, cultural leisure and safety maintenance in China, which fall short of both in-depth and broad connotations of public activity. Two sources can explain this situation. The first source is that the public is always the object to be promoted and educated in the situations referred to in public interests and social issues, but the public has a decreased right to speech, less enthusiasm, and hardly the necessary level of awareness. The second source includes the evolving stages and organization patterns of community in China. This source is still in its infancy because of historical reasons pertaining to structure and the conditions needed to perform more functions.

Since the mid-1990s, economic development, changes in the housing allotment system and the housing market and rapid urbanization have all crumbled neighborhood relationships, including the organizational type, natural-derived type and mixed type. The industry-oriented community formed by the allotment system in the jurisdiction of the residences has been replaced by the leveled community generated from the division of fortunes, highlighting socialization and isolation. Under these circumstances, the original social structures of a city's grass roots, which consist of district offices and residents’ committees, are faced with an adjustment to the community pattern. The social undertakings and functions previously afforded by the units begin to transfer to community, thereby intensifying the connection between the inhabitant and the community (Wang & Wang 2003). In one aspect, the common demand for improving life calls for the appearance of communities. In another aspect, the close life of the Gemeinschaft community is impossible due to the increasingly developed social visions of labor, modern communication methods, gradually rationalized social interactions and frequent social mobility (Shen 2004). Under this two-way action, public participation is more reflected in the pursuit of self-interest and the fulfilment of basic requirements. In modern cities, neighborhoods and public participation are therefore in short supply of public passion and dense social atmospheres, which has become a dispensable issue. It is therefore challenging to push the social issue of water resource protection by the platform of community service and the role of public participation.

Public participation mechanism for building water-conservation community

In one sociological questionnaire, the willingness to participate in public affairs was found to be lower than 50% for contemporary Chinese citizens (Wang & Feng 2004). The main willingness content concentrates on daily recreation, sports and exercises and the maintenance of community safety. The participating groups are relatively older and low in education, thus ostracizing immigrants. This outcome is influenced by the aging population, private ownership and the rise of population mobility. Another survey found that although community residents have a higher willingness to participate in social organization activities, they lack the actual activity of participation. The reasons for lower public participation in the community are mostly due to a lack of spare time, information channels, and topics of interest (Xu et al. 2015). At present, community participation in China is still in the initial stage. The community governance of social participation is faced by a strong administrative system, the limited participation of elites, relatively insufficient professional talent, an imbalanced development, the lack of bottom-up promotion mechanisms, and concerns about the interests and autonomy of residents. Changes in social and industrial structures and lifestyles and increases in population mobility all lead to changes in social relationships and lifestyles (Liang & Jin 2015). The tourism development and emergence of information networks offer multiple appealing choices for young people to enlarge their space of activity. Therefore, it is necessary to determine the attractive, cohesive and balanced potential values to establish effective activities for public participation and to promote the response of water conservation in the community, which serves as the catalytic agent to inspire the passion of public participation and establish a stable operation pattern.

Because the cohesion and public participation of the urban community depend on the individual's willingness and motivation, so they are naturally connected with three levels of elements: the internal world elements of the residents, such as their worldview, self-consciousness and life experience; the different individual characteristics of the residents, such as gender, age, education, economic income, family status, and internet usage; and the external world elements, such as growing regions, water policies and measures, environmental conditions, community organizations, and social culture. All these elements have a close effect on levels of water-conservation consciousness and behaviors; thus, they also have a close influence on the establishment of water-conservation communities and residents’ participation. In terms of gender, the average water-conservation awareness of females is significantly higher than that of men. The main reason for this result is that women are more concerned about saving than men, and women are more concerned about the purchase of household water-conservation appliances and water bills; therefore, the female awareness of water conservation is stronger. In terms of age, as age increases, the awareness of water conservation gradually increases. Residents over 50 years old, especially those over 65 years old, are more concerned about the secondary use of water resources than those in other age groups. However, 20–35-year-old residents have higher levels of attention and sensitivity to the installation of household water-conservation devices than other age groups. In terms of education level, there are significant differences in water-conservation awareness due to different levels of education, i.e. college/undergraduate > high school graduate > some high school/secondary school > less than high school. Thus, the higher the level of education received, the stronger the sense of responsibility for water conservation (Chen et al. 2018).

From the perspective of households with different income levels, on the one hand, households with higher incomes may have a greater probability of adopting water-conservation behaviors than households with lower incomes. First, households with higher incomes may have increased levels of water consumption, thereby being able to save more water with water-conservation efforts. Second, water-conservation behaviors, such as the purchase and transformation of water-conservation appliances, require cost inputs, and families with higher incomes can bear the economic costs of water-conservation behaviors more easily than lower-income families. On the other hand, households with higher incomes may be more reluctant to adopt water conservation. Although their water consumption and resulting water bills may be high, the proportion of these water fees to their expenditures is relatively small, so they are less motivated to adopt water conservation (Mu et al. 2014). In terms of the role of social institutions, water-conservation community organizations, as groups of force, transcend the limited influence of individual influences and, to a certain extent, strengthen the awareness and behavior of community residents to participate in community water conservation. The group's operational model not only integrates dispersed community residents but also empowers community residents to have stronger environmental protection and water-conservation behaviors, thus accelerating the pace of water-conservation community construction (Ma 2018).

In conclusion, although community participation is affected by three levels of elements, the determining elements are still the consciousness and preferences of an individual's internal world. Since the individual characteristics change slowly, and the changes of the external environment are complicated and uncertain, furthermore, the individual has less selection and control on them; thus, ecological consciousness and wills for participation are influenced by the latter two levels of elements and then formed. Additionally, internal world elements, such as the desire for self-realization, will become the power for participating in ecological welfare activities once motivated (see Figure 4).

Figure 4

Factors affecting public participation in urban communities.

Figure 4

Factors affecting public participation in urban communities.

In community construction, people's internal world elements should be focused on and become the positive elements to be mobilized. In the 1940s, the five-level hierarchy theory of human needs proposed by Maslow, with divisions related to physical demand, safety demand, emotional demand, respect demand and self-realization demand, offered explicit instructions for the current community builders (Maslow 1954). If the persistent pursuit of benefits comes from the first two demands (i.e. physical and safety) as a reflection of instinct, then the passion for ecology, water conservation and other social public careers still needs the three other demands to inspire people. In the promotion of community public participation, the above factors are integrated into five middle-level demands: the safety and cleanliness of the water environment, with the cost-control of the water environment reflecting the residents’ need for survival and security; the beauty and friendliness of the water body create a natural environment in which people can be intimate, romantic and comfortable in nature, which is beneficial to the leisure activities of the neighborhood and families; the organization and social support of community public participation represent the level of respect and self-realization of the neighborhood, which have the most fundamental connection with the residents’ self-awareness and willingness to participate. This means that a sense of community belonging and common interests can be established if some form of the reciprocal capital of social participation can be created among the members of the community (Feng 2002).

In addition, the demand for human emotion and respect also indicates that public activities of the community, including ecology and water conservation, can become powerful ways to break through social isolation and establish public communication. People with different incomes and backgrounds come together to work in crisis related to water resources, which is an inspiring event itself. From the level of self-realization, many meanings can be found. For an adult, their achievements in public activities, including those related to ecology and water conservation, even a speech or show of skill, will obtain the respect of children or realize a child's dream. For older people, their devotion to society means the existence of their personal value. For children, taking part in this kind of activity accompanied by their parents will be a memorable and beneficial experience in their process of their growth.

Regarding the special demographic structures, cultural customs and family constitutions foster a culture of public participation and its related mechanisms. For the community, high-density inhabitation maintains the basis for the existence of Gemeinschaft. Individuals, their families and the other people in the community have a special connection and an interest in promoting the belonging to and recognition of their region and the emergence of a common interest (Wang 2002). The community can therefore be a new unit in the city and still offer an effective integrated mechanism and nurturing platform for new social spaces, further guaranteeing the continuous performance of a unified public strategy (see Figure 5).

Figure 5

Operation mechanism of public participation in community.

Figure 5

Operation mechanism of public participation in community.

Eco-recreational public activities, taking water conservation as a theme, alter the previous passive role of the government by the promotion of the transference of traditional boring and tedious political incitements into comfortable entertainment experiences and social activities for public. While the uninvolved and their families are busy with other activities, involved individuals are agglomerated into one unit with a common objective. The value of this pattern is to gain initiative, reverse the role of participation, culture the potential value and extend the channels and objectives of public participation through appropriate organization methods and content selection.

Construction of public participation in water-conservation communities

The water-conservation community should first obtain the recognition of water resource protection measures from social groups. The next step is to select suitable themes by which to organize the activities of effective agencies with the aim of obtaining the support of the spatial environment and technology for the implementation of various activities. The establishment of public participation thus requires multilevel coordination among organization agencies, strategic promotion, space and facilities. This constituted system is shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6

Construction system of public participation in community.

Figure 6

Construction system of public participation in community.

In this system, the material guarantee is affected by governmental support and by the funding of the social public. The sponsors of public participation usually have a passive role, which is only solved by positive lobby and resource exploration. The software element is less required, and the experience and wisdom of the community managers are very dependent, which can therefore be a breakthrough in promoting public participation. During the transference period, the city structure and social culture are increasingly complex, and the willingness for public participation by the community residents is generally poor. The awareness of water conservation should therefore be promoted by the organization of public activities to arouse interesting points and provide suitable forms of activity. The goals are to integrate the public's pursuits and multiple interests into activities and to ensure the flexibility and variety of these activities to further adapt to an individual's requirements.

Community public space, as a convenient place for residents from varied ages to aggregate to hold artistic or therapeutic ecology-promotion activities, is the material form of urban social life. So-called public participation refers to the sharing of social responsibility and the results obtained by urban citizens. This type of space provides a chance to show the citizens how to seek common interests and devote themselves to environmental improvement and the promotion of their own health. Residents within the same community or those in a neighboring community are able to determine the ideal combination of different groups through the interactions of time and space, as well as living places, during the processes of role changing and daily life to ultimately establish an overall connection (Wirth 1938). The construction of a water-conservation community system with public participation is based on this mechanism. The behavioral characteristics and participation values of different groups are explored, and these social communication and self-realization requirements serve as guidelines for ingeniously culturing a focused interest to immerse the individuals in the release of their own potential, the perfection of their personality and the generation of their intellect and to establish a common cultural moral character and pursuit of ethics. Under the community development trend of multiservice functions and recreations, public activities, including the protection and utilization of water resources, should be connected with daily entertainment and education and should be held within larger communities or areas. The related content is described as follows:

  1. Propagation and education. The establishment of public awareness and the popularization of knowledge are the important first steps. Promotion measures such as lectures, meetings and exhibitions to which all the people from the community are invited, as well as professional seminars and contest selections, all with the theme of water conservation, can introduce the idea of public activity experiences related to water resource protection.

  2. Building and maintenance. Encouraging residents to participate in the building and maintenance of rainwater gardens and other rainwater-harvesting facilities under the guidance of professional designers will greatly enhance the awareness and perception of the local residents on water-conservation meaning and measures and increase their autonomous maintenance of their residential environments. The building of water-conservation communities can bring multiple benefits including reduced water purchases from wholesale water agencies, water utility cost savings and reduced water storage costs (American Water Works Association 2006).

  3. Experience, restoration and social activities. The modification of waterscapes and plant landscapes in communities provides an excellent natural environment in which to hold multipurpose public activities for residents, such as field visits, exhibitions, meetings and seminars about the techniques of and experiences related to storm water utilization, to improve the residents’ skills, to increase their enjoyable pleasures and to strengthen their social interaction by using the same goals. In addition, the experiences of the five senses and the restorative activities related to ecological landscapes also bring extra merits to the ecological construction of a community.

  4. Artistic performance. Various forms of artistic performances with the theme of water conservation closely link the public with water-conservation-focused ecological response actions, deepen the significance of their activities, and achieve a broad resonance. Some of the most valuable advantages to artistic performance are that it is well known, popular and resonant when in a vivid format. In addition, the awareness of a love of nature and a desire for water ecology will be cultured and embedded in the residents through painting, photography, literature and other recreational activities.

  5. Technical invention and artistic design competition. Holding contests for technical inventions related to water conservation in the community, such as stormwater gardening, and exhibiting innovative devices related to rainwater collection, treatment, design and implementation, gives residents a chance to display their personal talents and artistic ideas on the ecological theme and to transfer their serious social public welfare actions into more acceptable and welcomed activities among other residents. The aim is to attract the attention of the residents, especially those families with children, to encourage their participation in such activities, to stir up their motivation, set up their self-efficacy and promote a sense of self-actuation.

The above suggestions indicate a new concept, which applies aspects of design science as methodologies by which to address contexts and problems to respond to the complex challenges related to the organization of public participation processes (Bryson et al. 2013). The organization of public participation is also a science that requires an appropriate course of action, as indicated by the effectiveness of marketing campaigns in achieving water efficiency savings in America, started in 2001. The valuable effect of public participation activities depends on the public attitude toward environmental issues. It is therefore crucial to obtain active involvement in water polity using appropriate methods (Howarth & Butler 2004).

The public participation in water-conservation activities is of course closely related to the powerful leadership of community organizations and external support. Among the residence-participation organizations, resident committees, which are formed by community units, social groups and residents, have been accepted as the core organizer of community activities. This form of organization agency must cover a wide range of alliances as they refer to a large area of activities, such as those of various non-governmental organizations (NGOs), independent eco-sociologists, dissociated social special groups, governmental agencies responsible for public affairs and the promotion of public participation in a single community, between both communities and even larger city areas.

The selection of participation bodies and the application of specific policies are also important in public participation. Family structures within contemporary communities are affected by traditional customs. It is still common to see three generations living together, as well as micro families, which consist of parents, a single child and a parent's family. Senior citizens and children become the leading users of open space in the community. Children, as the core of the family, are in a crucial period of knowledge accumulation and conceptual formation. The arrival of children within a neighborhood also means the emergence of young parents or older people, thereby doubling the number of possible new members in water-conservation public activities. Previous research indicates that parental participation serves as guidance and an illustration for children (Keramitsoglou & Tsagarakis 2011). It seems to be a strategic move to positively attract children and older people when formulating activity-related content. External technical and resource support, which include implementation procedures, technical details and the allocation of various resources such as economic resources, spatial resources, human resources, material resources and intellectual resources, is also necessary to promote public participation activities. These resources are funded by the government and social groups, parts of which are implicated by the community. Thus, seeking external support equals internal exploration.

It is especially noteworthy that the general information services within the virtual community are greatly valuable to public participation in water-conservation activities as the information network grows. Community residents realize not only real-time connections through actual activities but also the interaction between individual intentions and the public environment through the public information platform of the virtual community. The information flow and willingness of transmission between individuals and agencies are promoted to extremely heighten the activity levels and success frequency. The subsequent evaluation and continuation of public activities are beneficial in later periods. The beneficial methods and media of virtual communities provide a convenient connection between the material world and a void, independence and sharing, and privacy and communications between residents and community organizations, thereby realizing the matching of different levels and the strengthening of the establishment of a public realm.

The ecological recreational activities of the water-conservation community bring together ecologists, benefit chasers and neutral spectators through the exploration of humanity and the tolerance of utilitarianism to determine the fit and resonance of the community platform, which is used to relieve the social differences and barriers between individuals and groups created by the shock of urbanization. Thus, common sense and activity programs related to ecology and water resource protection are promoted while also improving multiple values.

CASE STUDIES

Currently, under various policies, the water-conservation measures in the communities in the southern cities of China mainly include the following aspects. (1) Through the technological improvement of families or communities, the utilization efficiency of water-using equipment is enhanced, which is usually implemented through the construction of engineering. Once water users from multiple backgrounds settle and live in an area, it is difficult to implement unified technological innovations and activities. (2) For residential water, which is oriented in the recycling of water and the systematic construction of comprehensive rainwater utilization, the initial construction cost is large and has less implementation. (3) Combined with rainwater recycling, a landscape environment is constructed, including ecological water landscapes and rainwater gardens, to further create a comfortable micro-climate and beautiful places for activities. This type of project is more popular. The implementation of the latter includes the introduction of the low impact development (LID) concept of a sponge city, the application of soft underlying soil in the community green land, rainwater gardens, healing gardens and other facilities. Various harder landscapes are also applied, such as permeable pavements, tree beds, stepping-stones and landscape pieces, to further construct rainwater and life-related sewage collection and treatment facilities and to improve water resource utilization efficiency and environmental quality.

Case 1. Water-saving demonstrations in the Yincheng Dongyuan and Jufuyuan Communities of Nanjing City

In the two communities, the roof rainwater of all buildings is filtered by rainwater pipes and discharged into the landscape water body. Submersible pumps, circulating water pumps and air floatation with biochemicals enhance the maintenance and effects of water purification (Guan et al. 2009). On the roadways, ramps, open-air stopping areas, and in some public buildings, permeable floor tiles are used, and special pipelines for rainwater collection are provided to increase the surface water content and to collect rainwater. Lake greening also plays a role in impeding water storage and greatly improves the control of stormwater runoff in the region. This not only improves the pedestrian environment of the community but also greatly saves water resources, reduces the pressure on the municipal water network and removes algae through the biological contact oxidative degradation of organic matter and microfiltration. The application of feeding sinks (the application of phosphorus removal and algae removal by polyaluminum chloride) strengthens the conservation of lake water in the community (Guan et al. 2009). The overall process is compact, flexible and economically viable. Through the treatment, the lake water absorbs the reclaimed water and is used to support the water quality standard of water landscapes (CJ/T95-2000), which avoids the phenomenon of water exchange and greatly saves water resources (Guan et al. 2009).

Case 2. A residential community to the west of Jinqiao Road, Pudong New Area, Shanghai

Although some new residential buildings have been constructed in the community, the majority of the buildings have been in place for a long time; therefore, their pipelines are aging and the drainage is not smooth, promoting stagnation and water waste. After seeking public opinion, green roof technology was used to renovate the average roofs within an area of approximately 3.5 hectares. After the renovation, the annual flow was reduced to 44%. At the same time, the concave green space was designed to effectively control the runoff of the rainwater. Fields, sidewalks, plazas, etc., were paved with water-permeable pavements to increase the penetration of rainwater and maintain local rainwater resources (Yu et al. 2014).

The above cases use water recycling and rainwater collection and treatment technology taking into consideration economic feasibility and maintenance in the future, and residents’ use of the environment is also considered. However, some residents are negative users or bystanders who are isolated from the technical implementation. Therefore, the intensive and subjective awareness of mobilization and pride are absent for them.

PROJECT ILLUSTRATION

Project introduction

The implementation of water conservation programs requires a dedicated staff and budget, plus several other positive aspects such as willing customer participants (American Water Works Association 2006). So a well-designed promotion project is needed. As a reflection of the abovementioned water-conservation community and public participation elements, a set of ecological and recreational activity projects are proposed herein for community residents, which include all the suggestions related to promotion, preparation, exhibitions, contests and experience. The implementation agencies for these projects may be the independent coalitions of ecological public organizations and resident committees or the specialized agencies created by the resident committees. One of these projects used as a catalyst for ecological response may be envisaged as a contest with the theme of Mini-Garden Assembly Contest: Rainwater Planting Box (see Figure 7). Every family gets a rainwater planting box, which is hollow, has multifaceted circular holes and is 0.45 m in height. This box is used to collect rainwater and to plant something, which combines the utilization technology of rainwater collection and the maintenance of a mini-garden. The cuboid planting boxes can be used in single or combined groups, with a final result of an exhibition space or spatial layout to ultimately obtain a multifunctional recreational space and landscape in a community.

Figure 7

Public participation-oriented water-conserved Assembling Mini-Garden Contest in community.

Figure 7

Public participation-oriented water-conserved Assembling Mini-Garden Contest in community.

The Mini-Garden Assembly Contest: Rainwater Planting Box campaign, which is conceived of as being both for families and individuals within a community, follows the concept of water recycling. The community agencies provide every family with a hollow rainwater planting box. The procedures cover the required steps, such as distribution and registration, grouping, mini-garden design and planting based on rainwater harvesting, appreciation and rating. During this process, the public will generate awareness of water conservation, become familiar with the technology and methods of rainwater utilization, learn gardening skills and planting technologies and strengthen their communication (see Figure 8). The assembly and combination of rainwater planting boxes will form leisure areas and communication spaces or landscapes for daily recreation. The selection contests are held regularly to motivate the glory and self-actualization demand of the contestants. The selection details will focus on the maintenance situation and gardening style of the planting box. Another potential effect of this campaign is to serve as a better channel for learning and a fun and attractive teaching mechanism for children. It will therefore be greatly supported by the community. This project is either held inside or inter-community, open to all the residents in the area. The mechanism of participation and withdrawal is flexible.

Figure 8

Procedure and mechanism of water-conserved Assembling Mini-Garden Contest with public participation.

Figure 8

Procedure and mechanism of water-conserved Assembling Mini-Garden Contest with public participation.

Operation procedure and technical details

The successful Mini-Garden Assembly Contest: Rainwater Planting Box requires certain preliminary technical preparation and support. In material preparation, a certain number of boxes are made to form a green-supporting body. The shapes can vary. In this project, the rectangular box should be 0.45 m tall, and the top can be hollow or not. For the side surfaces, 1–4 surfaces can be chosen as either hollow or not. The design combination is flexible to encourage the better growth of the plants. Stepped seats and platforms for games or three-dimensional landscapes are finally formed.

In terms of technical guidance, the teaching of preliminary knowledge and regular technical guidance are inevitably necessary to ensure the successful performance of the campaign. Field teachings and the visual network platform of the community are available. Meanwhile, the resident committee should offer certain maintenance services.

In terms of contents and procedure management, the content can be selected as follows. (a) Utilization of rainwater. Irrigation is allowed during the preliminary period. Only the rainwater collected inside the box can be relied on to control and maintain the growth of the plants. (b) Landscape characteristics and artistic level of the garden box. (c) The creative development of the planting box, for example, special modeling seats and gaming platforms can be formed through the jointing, overlapping and disordered boxes. Excellent designs are selected through ongoing reward and exhibit phases to increase the entertainment, expectations and glory of the participants and to further enlarge the social influence.

Derivative activities: Some related activities can be further extended, such as a design contest for the green-supporting body, an invention contest for rainwater garden technology, green visits, open-air concerts, waterfront cultural festivals and photography contests about the community.

Characteristics and significance

Sherry R. Arnstein, an American planning theorist, considers that educated and informed public participation belong to the categories of nonparticipation or symbolic participation because the public, acting in the negative role, always get notified of the intentions of the governmental decision-makers and must carry out these orders without using their own freedom to decide (Arnstein 1969). For representative participation, such as partnership or complete participation, the public, as the partnership or leading role, participates in the official decision-making and action, thus showing more activity and creativity.

The Mini-Garden Assembly Contest: The Rainwater Planting Box endows the participants with the role of partner and leader to immerse them completely, thus providing a platform by which to show their involvement, with multiple choices available for the community citizens. The related advantages are the promotion of public communication, encouragement of creativity, multiple extensions and flexibility with low cost. The recreational activities, which include microclimate regulation, construction of neighborhood spaces and the establishment of game facilities for children, are organized with human interest to obtain more responses and participation. This method is highly technical and takes into account multiple interests, which displays the essential connotation of public participation apart from the deeper level.

DISCUSSION

China's construction of a water ecological environment requires not only the promotion of policies and projects by the state and government departments at all levels but also the broad support and response from the social foundation. The construction of water-conservation communities can be used as a breakthrough, as their effectiveness comes from the residents of the community. Extensive participation requires a comprehensive consideration of the residents’ own economic interests and environmental suitability considerations, as well as deeper social synergies, communicative communities, and pro-natural and self-fulfilling cultural, social and psychological needs.

In the process of community construction, technical factors will affect residents’ willingness to participate in two aspects. First, the professionalism of water-conservation technology will exclude most residents from the related initiatives. Obviously, the design, installation and maintenance of water-conservation facilities are professional matters, and it is difficult for community residents without professional knowledge to participate. Second, from the perspective of economic costs, the investment costs will be higher in the initial stage of natural precipitation in recycling and will thus affect the willingness of community residents to participate.

From this point of view, the key to eliminating this technological barrier is to enhance the scientific, social and artistic interests and increase the integration of neighborhood life to further contribute to the public's enthusiasm for water-conservation community construction. A community-based ecological leisure activity system based on public participation and water conservation can mobilize the conscious initiatives and self-fulfillment aspirations of the residents’ internal world, link the residents’ activities with the community's venues and environment and form a system of implementation that is holistic, diverse and effective. Based on the hierarchy of community–residence group–family unit–individual in the gradual refinement of living space, the following strategies can be proposed: (1) encourage people and provide sufficient technical support to adopt water-conservation technologies and achieve economic benefits within their family and community; (2) contribute to the ecological environment of the community by creating water-conservation landscapes and transformation facilities and provide suitable places for residents’ multi-purpose leisure activities; (3) hold popular science exhibitions with the concurrent promotion of large-scale water resources and water ecology in the community to improve the public's awareness of water conservation; (4) stimulate the residents’ self-fulfilling willingness by organizing attractive design competitions and planting competitions and promoting the corresponding ecological actions of the residents. In short, the construction of urban ecological water-conservation communities and the promotion of the public participation of residents in natural precipitation and domestic wastewater activities depend on the internal and external comprehensive influencing factors that influence and encourage residents’ willingness to formulate and participate in an effective community water-conservation activity system. Through the above ways, the inhibition of technology barriers on public water-conservation activities can be overcome, and what is more, the individual potential and willingness to participate in the water-conservation activities will be mobilized and agglomerated. This kind of community-based incentive for water-conservation activity is of great significance to promote the public's ecological awareness of social benefits and public welfare at the national level, through which multiple positive benefits will be achieved in economic, environmental, entertainment and leisure dimensions.

CONCLUSIONS

Public participation in national water resources and environmental protection is an important basic supporting element and is closely related to the success of the construction measures of national water ecology. The education of water-conservation awareness for the public will be a form of collective consciousness if this measure is integrated into the cultural and recreational activities in the water-conservation community. The responses and support to water-conservation policies and measures from the public can be aroused and stimulated through smart-designed recreational activities using self-realization. The broadness and sustainability or such participation is beneficial to carrying out the purposes of water resource protection for every individual in the future. The right way to ensure the water-conservation response action of public participation in the community is to establish a mechanism that arouses enthusiasm for every aspect of participation.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This project was supported by the China Youth Foundation Project of National Natural Science Foundation (grant number 51608145); Heilongjiang Natural Science Foundation of China (grant number E2017039); Key Project of Heilongjiang Provincial Arts and Science Planning Foundation (grant number 2015A023); General Project of Heilongjiang Provincial Art and Science Planning Foundation (grant number 2016B015).

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