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As Australian cities face uncertain water futures, what insights can the history of Aboriginal and settler relationships with water yield? Residents have come to expect reliable, safe, and cheap water, but natural limits and the costs of maintaining and expanding water networks are at odds with forms and cultures of urban water use. Cities in a Sunburnt Country is the first comparative study of the provision, use, and social impact of water and water infrastructure in Australia's five largest cities. Drawing on environmental, urban, and economic history, this co-authored book challenges widely held assumptions, both in Australia and around the world, about water management, consumption, and sustainability. From the 'living water' of Aboriginal cultures to the rise of networked water infrastructure, the book invites us to take a long view of how water has shaped our cities, and how urban water systems and cultures might weather a warming world.


‘Drawing on a rich set of evidence and expertise, this book provides a fascinating account of how water has shaped the five largest cities in the driest inhabited continent on Earth. This is a beautifully written and important book that reveals new insights into our pasts and possible futures.’

Emily O'Gorman - Macquarie University

‘A breakthrough book dealing with one of the most urgent challenges facing Australian cities and cities everywhere: how to ensure urban water futures and urban justice. Water is the life-blood of cities, yet Australia’s highly urbanised populations live on the driest continent on Earth. In this book, leading environmental and urban historians explore and analyse the long history of urban water, from the Dreaming to rise of modern cities, tracing how the past shaped the present and the new urgencies of anthropogenic climate change. Here is a rich resource and a powerful clarion call for urban planners, policymakers, and anyone interested in water and the future of our cities.’

Grace Karskens - University of New South Wales

‘Provocative and timely, Cities in a Sunburnt Country argues that Aboriginal knowledge of land and water stewardship will be crucial to the creation of a more water-resilient future for urban Australia. A vital argument - and book - for water-strapped cities everywhere.’

Char Miller - Pomona College

‘Water shortage in a changing environment is one of our most pressing contemporary challenges in the world’s driest continent. This stimulating work provides an instructive historical lens from both indigenous and settler perspectives on the challenges of water provision in Australia’s five largest cities.’

Simon Ville - University of Wollongong

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