What is Water Sensitive Urban Design?
Our Cities and Towns have evolved around a river or coastline and as such water is an integral to their identity and appeal, yet it is often not a priority in the design of the places in which we live, work and play.
By constructing underground water systems we are missing out on the wider environmental and aesthetic benefits of managing water on or near the surface. To fully utilise the benefits of water, we must connect water management with making good places.
Our approach to better water management is called Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD). It’s a way of integrating the water cycle with the built environment through good planning. WSUD brings all of the elements of the water cycle together.
- Supply and demand
- Waste water
- Rainfall and its runoff
- As well as its contribution to local character, the environment and community
With this approach we improve quality of life, while also addressing flooding, pollution, and water scarcity issues changing water from a potential nuisance to a valuable resource. WSUD can be applied at every scale from the design of our homes, to strategic planning of large cities and towns.
But how does it work?
On a simple level, instead allowing water from the sink to run away down the drain, we could use it to water our gardens, or flush our toilets. If we used permeable surfaces instead of standard paving and introduced sustainable drainage systems we would reduce pressure on our stormwater systems and could reduce pollution and downstream flooding as well as improve urban ecology, urban cooling, amenity and improve property values. Installing green roofs reduces runoff and provides urban habitat. Any excess runoff can be directed to a rain garden to retain the runoff and promote the growth plants. More and healthier street trees could be naturally watered by if we directed road runoff to tree pits.
In commercial areas large amounts of rainwater could be harvested from roofs and car parks, naturally filtered and stored to flush toilets, and supply industrial processes and keep businesses operating despite water restrictions.
Even a city environment dominated by paving and concrete can be shaped to harvest runoff from paved surfaces and collect waste water from our buildings to provide local supplies of recycled water.
Prime development land is sought after near streams, rivers and coastlines that may flood, so it is crucial to design new developments that can accommodate and direct floodwater using strategic open spaces and corridors to minimise damage to valuable infrastructure and homes.
In summary Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD):
- Reduces water pollution
- Decreases flood risk
- Gives greater security of water supply
- Improves ecosystem health
- Helps communities connect with water
- Eases the urban heat island effect
- And brings together disciplines to create attractive and intelligent urban environments
FloodWorks, located in beautiful Lismore Northern NSW, believes that Water Sensitive Urban Design should be an essential component of delivering sustainable urban developments that are beautiful, successful, and resilient places to live.