What is Water Sensitive Urban Design
Water sensitive urban design (WSUD) is an approach to the planning and design of urban environments that supports healthy ecosystems, lifestyles and livelihoods through smart management of all our waters.

The National Water Commission defines water sensitive urban design as ensuring “…that urban water management is sensitive to natural hydrological and ecological cycles. It integrates urban planning with the management, protection and conservation of the urban water cycle”.

The three diagrams below illustrate how the water-cycle works in natural and urban areas.  The diagram on the right highlights the potential benefits of Water Sensitive Urban Design in achieving a more natural hydrologic regime.

(click to enlarge)


Some specific WSUD objectives are to:

  • minimise impacts on existing natural features and ecological processes
  • minimise impacts on natural hydrologic behaviour of catchments
  • protect water quality of surface and ground waters
  • minimise demand on the reticulated water supply system
  • improve the quality of and minimise polluted water discharges to the natural environment
  • incorporate collection treatment and/or reuse of runoff, including roofwater and other stormwater
  • reduce run-off and peak flows from urban development
  • re-use treated effluent and minimise wastewater generation
  • increase social amenity in urban areas through multi-purpose greenspace, landscaping and integrating water into the landscape to enhance visual, social, cultural and ecological values
  • add value while minimising development costs (e.g. drainage infrastructure costs)
  • account for the nexus between water use and wider social and resource issues
  • harmonise water cycle practices across and within the institutions responsible for waterway health, flood management, pollution prevention and protection of social amenity.

(Source: The National Water Commission website).