Water sensitive urban design

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.

What is Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD)?

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.

Contact urbanecology@innerwest.nsw.gov.au to view WSUD projects already installed in the Inner West.

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

For more information on Water Sensitive Urban Design  please 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.

people at workshop in garden

Part 1: Introduction (August 17. 2019 )

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

Part 2: Design (September 21, 2019) 

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

Part 3: Build (October 20 ,2019)

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

Please note: workshops available to Inner West Council residents only.  
Bookings are essential, to register please go to Eventbrite.

For more information on venue, location and wait list please email 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.

Other further information

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Page last updated: 12 Nov 2019