Water sensitive urban design

Water Sensitive Urban Design is about blending water cycle management into our city, town and suburb planning and design. 

We are managing the impacts of stormwater from developments with an aim to:

  • protect waterways
  • improve waterway health
  • copy the natural water cycle as closely as possible
  • minimise development cost.

Why are we protecting waterways?

Protecting waterways within our cities towns and suburbs makes sure that they can remain valuable community assets. They also add to the vibrancy of the area and support the ecosystems that rely on them.

Why do we manage the stormwater?

We manage stormwater by changing the landscape use, rather than let it all drain it to our waterways.

We do this it to:

  • reduces the amount drained
  • the frequency of stormwater drainage
  • improve the stormwater quality before it reaches our waterways. 

What are the benefits?

There are a range of benefits such as:

  • alternate supply
  • improved facilities
  • improved safety
  • contributes to improving vibrancy of the area
  • enhancing natural features such as rivers and lakes
  • minimises the drainage ground work development costs by reducing pipe sizes and potentially replacing other large scale inter-knit water systems with local fixes.

We work with developers to ensure Water Sensitive Urban Design is considered in the design of new housing developments. We also use when undertaking projects where there is an identified need, works include:

  • grassed and landscaped swales
  • infiltration trenches and bio-retention systems
  • gross pollutant traps, wetlands and sediment ponds
  • rainwater tanks – stormwater harvesting and reuse
  • grey water harvesting and reuse
  • rain gardens, porous pavements and aquifer recharge and reuse.

Project example - Morton Road, Christie Downs

Along Morton Road in Christie Downs you’ll see lovely new footpaths and trees, but underground there’s more than meets the eye.


Christie Downs has relatively low tree cover at 10.5% while the Adelaide average is 27%. Around 100 native and ornamental trees have now been planted.

Like many suburbs, this area can be a real hot spot in summer with lots of hard surfaces that act like a heat bank at night.

By planting trees and other vegetation in a supportive environment that encourages them to thrive we improved the appeal of the area. But most importantly making it makes the area greener and cooler in summer.


On the west side of the road, next to the high school, the paving might look standard but it is actually full of tiny holes. This allows the rain to filter through, rather than run off into the stormwater drain and out to sea.

You’ll also see a series of silver plates in the kerb by the school. These are tree inlets that capture water running down the street into a holding area, where it slowly filters out to water the street trees.

The large vegetation strip on the eastern side of the road captures stormwater. Which allows it to seep back into the soil after it has been filtered by a series of biofiltration beds. This passive irrigation is being supplemented by recycled water until the vegetation establishes.

In time, the street will be:

  • a much more welcoming place to walk
  • have a great cover of shade
  • reducing the unfiltered stormwater that is going out to sea.