Water sensitive urban design

Swale and garden


What is Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD)?

In the past, urban stormwater drainage systems were designed mainly to prevent flooding by transporting stormwater run-off as quickly as possible into the nearest natural waterway.

Stormwater run-off carries with it a range of pollutants including litter, garden fertilisers, animal faeces, silt, vegetation, and pollutants from sewer outflows and vehicles. This puts great stress on the waterway resulting in algal blooms, ecosystem breakdown and polluted rivers and beaches.

Many people want to use local waterways for recreation, such as swimming in the Cooks or Parramatta River.

Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) is most simply defined as the sustainable management of water within urban areas through intelligent and integrated design. It looks at the urban water cycle as a whole, taking into account three water sources readily available in urban areas:

  • Potable water—drinking water
  • Wastewater—water that has been used for washing or flushing
  • Stormwater—water run-off from hard surfaces including roads, paths and roofs

The aims of water sensitive urban design are to:

  • Reduce run-off flows while minimising on-site flood risk
  • Reduce potable water use through the use of efficient fixtures and appliances and through rainwater, stormwater and greywater reuse (see Council's rainwater tank incentive scheme)
  • Minimise wastewater generation, treating wastewater to a standard suitable for reuse and/or discharge to receiving waters
  • Protect natural systems by treating stormwater before discharge to receiving waters
  • Integrate stormwater treatment into the landscape to enhance the recreational and aesthetic quality of the urban environment

WSUD in the Inner West

Council is incorporating Water Sensitive Urban Design right across the local area through subcatchment management planning and Council's Strategy for a Water Sensitive Community.

Here are some of Council's WSUD projects already installed:

Hill Street rain garden, Marrickville Tempe Lands wetlands Tennyson Street rain garden, Marrickville
Thornley Street rain garden, Marrickville Permeable surface carkpark, Newtown Wilford Lane living lane program, Newtown


What can I do on my property

Council works with community on supporting WSUD solutions on private property. These are some of the things you can do:

  • Capture water before it leaves your property from rooftops and hard surfaces using rainwater tanks, swales and rain gardens
  • Slow the flow of stormwater through smart landscape design, placing garden beds on contour for passive irrigation
  • Implement landscaping and drainage elements that ensure sediments, leaves, grass clippings and nutrients no longer leave your property. Barrier plantings are one way of achieving this
  • Reduce or eliminate the use of water soluble fertilisers on your property as these cause algal blooms in waterways
  • Plumb rainwater into toilet and laundry to reduce potable water use
  • Where paving is necessary choose permeable options

Here are some recent community WSUD projects:

crawford-place-marrickville-rain-garden gladstone-st-newtown-rain-garden gould-ave-lewisham-rain-garden
Crawford Place rain garden, Marrickville Gladstone Street rain garden, Newtown Gould Street rain garden, Lewisham
tom-foster-community-centre-newtown-rain-garden dulwich-hill-public-school-rain-garden wentworth-st-tempe-rain-garden-and-swale
Tom Foster Community Centre rain garden Dulwich Hill Public School rain garden Wentworth St rain garden & swale, Tempe

For more information on Water Sensitive Urban Design contact Council's Urban Ecology Team on urbanecology@innerwest.nsw.gov.au

Attend a workshop

Council runs the Water Sensitive Urban Design workshop series twice a year. This 3-part workshop series introduces you to the principles of Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) with a practical hands-on workshop that designs and builds a water sensitive feature on a participant's property.



Part 1: Introduction

How to manage stormwater on your property using green roofs, green walls, rain gardens, wetlands, porous paving, swales and rainwater tanks.

ROUND 1: Saturday 24 March 2018, 9am-12pm. Location TBA BOOKED OUT (waitlist available)

ROUND 2: Saturday 11 August 2018, 9am-12pm. Location TBA

Part 2: Design 

During this workshop you will learn how to create a detailed water sensitive urban design incorporating lessons learned in part 1.

ROUND 1: Saturday 7 April 2018, 9am-12pm. Location TBA BOOKED OUT (waitlist available)

ROUND 2: Saturday 22 September, 9am-12pm. Location TBA

Part 3: Build 

In the third workshop, get your hands dirty and build a water sensitive feature on the property of a participant.

ROUND 1: Saturday 12 May 2018, 9am-12pm. Location TBA BOOKED OUT (waitlist available)

ROUND 2: Saturday 20 October 2018, 9am-12pm. Location TBA

Please note: workshops available to Inner West Council residents only.  

To register, email the dates, your name, best contact number and residential address to urbanecology@innerwest.nsw.gov.au 


Rain Garden Design Manual

Council has published a design manual to integrate rain gardens and WSUD facilities as the standard design approach to stormwater management and treatment.

The primary target audience for this manual is design staff and consultants directly involved in the detailed design process for rain gardens, such as stormwater and drainage engineers, civil engineers and landscape architects. It may also be useful for a broader audience looking for guidance or details about how rain gardens may impact on their work.

External Resources


Your Say Inner West website
The community engagement hub where you can get involved in important projects that shape the future of the Inner West.





Follow the links below to find contact details and services in your area: