What is Water Sensitive Urban Design?

The National Water Commission has defined Urban Integrated Water Cycle Management as:

The integration of water supply, sewerage and stormwater, so that water is used optimally within a catchment resource, state and national policy context. It promotes the coordinated planning, development and management of water, land and relation resources (including energy use) that are linked to urban areas and the application of WSUD principles within the built urban environment.

The National Water Initiative defines water sensitive urban design as:

The integration of urban planning with the management, protection and conservation of the urban water cycle that insures urban water management is sensitive to natural hydrological and ecological cycles.

Water sensitive urban design seeks to achieve better urban water management outcomes through implementation of the following objectives.


Manage catchments to maintain or improve water resources

  • Manage runoff from all rainfall events as high in the catchment as possible
  • Minimise changes to hydrology at critical internal and final discharge points of the stormwater system
  • Maintain or improve water quality (surface and groundwater)
  • Manage, protect and restore waterways and wetlands
  • Minimise pollutant inputs through implementation of appropriate non-structural controls
  • Retain native vegetation and natural landform
  • Protect public drinking water source areas
  • Safeguard the quality and availability of water resources for the future

Ensure the efficient use of water resources

  • Minimise water use within developments
  • Maximise water reuse including wastewater and harvested stormwater
  • Achieve highest value use of fit for purpose water, considering all available forms of water for their potential as a resource

Manage risks to human life and property

  • Provide adequate clearance from 100 year average recurrence interval flooding and surface or groundwater inundation/waterlogging
  • Prevent flooding or inundation of upstream or adjacent developed areas
  • Manage surface water flows to prevent damage to downstream infrastructure and assets
  • Manage risk to public health from disease vector and nuisance insects

Ensure that economic, social and cultural values are recognised and maintained

  • Enhance social amenity through multiple use corridors and integrating water management measures into the street and lot landscape to enhance visual, recreational, cultural, public health and ecological values
  • Implement water management systems that are economically viable in the long-term
  • Ensure the delivery of best practice urban water management through planning and design of high quality urban areas in accordance with sustainability and precautionary principles

Our Partners