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Water protection in action

Case study

Water sensitive urban design



Source: Georgia Garrard

This approach to urban planning and design integrates the total water cycle into the urban development process. The design promotes sustainable use and reuse of water from all sources. Guidance on good practice for this is available from various sources, including the EPA and the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board

Water sensitive urban design (WSUD) provides:

  • integrated management of groundwater, stormwater, drinking water and wastewater to protect water related environmental, recreational and cultural values
  • storage, treatment and use of stormwater
  • treatment and reuse of wastewater
  • use of vegetation for treatment purposes, water efficient landscaping and enhancing biodiversity
  • using water-saving measures within and outside domestic, commercial, industrial and institutional premises to minimise the need for drinking and non-drinking water supplies.

When the design is implemented appropriately, it can greatly reduce the effects of urbanisation, including those from stormwater. A range of actions may be used to reduce the effects of stormwater pollution and changed flow regimes, depending on particular circumstances, as described below.

A rain garden is designed to capture stormwater from roads, carparks, driveways, roofs and other hard surfaces. Rain gardens are WSUD features designed to better manage stormwater. Collectively, rain gardens and other stormwater improvement features, such as wetlands installed in catchments, will contribute towards less stormwater going out to sea and improved water quality in urban waterways and Adelaide’s coastal waters, if carried out on a broad scale.

The stormwater is detained in the rain garden, slowly filtering through a special porous soil layer to the drainage at the base. Stormwater flows are diverted and pollutants are removed through the process. Rain gardens can be scaled to various catchment sizes, from a single, small garden to being part of a larger project to manage stormwater. The improved stormwater from a rain garden may be collected and used for irrigation or returned to the stormwater system.

Rain Garden 500 is part of the Catchment to Coast Project, funded through the Australian Government National Landcare Program. An important component of this 3-year grant project is to build community understanding of how the actions we carry out on the land impact water quality in urban waterways, creeks and coastal waters and to build the community’s ability to use WSUD.

Case study

Water for Nature



Adelaide's water story (illustration by Simon Kneebone). Source: CRC for Water Sensitive Cities

Nature Foundation SA is a not-for-profit conservation organisation working to protect and restore SA’s natural biodiversity.

Since 2008, one of their flagship programs, Water for Nature, has delivered environmental water along the River Murray to help reduce loss and stress to ecosystems and habitats caused by river regulation and drought.

Over the 3 years, 200 volunteers have worked on the program to deliver 4.56 GL of environmental water to more than 35 wetland and floodplain sites along the River Murray.

Healthy wetland and floodplain environments are important for environmental, economic, cultural and social reasons, providing an optimal environment for flora and fauna, improved water quality for human consumption and agricultural use, and opportunities for recreation and tourism.

Nature Foundation SA works with private landholders, irrigators, community groups and local government on smaller sites to deliver environmental water, complementing larger government watering projects. It also works closely with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to deliver environmental water.