Water Sensitive Urban Design

Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) is a way of planning our cities to minimise water runoff and ensure any runoff causes the least amount of damage. It is also about wise use of that water to improve our urban environment.

The key principles of WSUD are:

  • to reduce the demand for potable (fit for drinking) water by using alternative sources of water such as rainwater, stormwater and treated wastewater and encouraging water efficient appliances, and low water use gardens and landscaping
  • to minimise the generation of wastewater and to treat wastewater to a suitable standard for re-use and/or release to receiving waters
  • to treat urban stormwater to a quality where it can be reused and/or discharged to surface waters
  • to use stormwater in the urban landscape to improve the visual and recreational amenity of developments.

In 2009 the ACT Government introduced the Water Sensitive Urban Design General Code (General Code) under the Territory Plan with a review in 2014 and substantial revisions introduced in a new WSUD Code, supported by Practice Guidelines, in 2019. The General Code is designed to encourage reduced use of mains water, to improve water quality and to manage stormwater flows in urban areas.

The Practice Guidelines for Water Sensitive Urban Design in the ACT (the WSUD Guidelines) continues the ACT Government's commitment to WSUD as part of a broader strategy of responsible water resources management. They support the General Code and provide developers, ACT Government officers and residents with support on introducing WSUD into their residential lot, streetscape, neighbourhood and estate.

The WSUD Guidelines comprises two main modules:

Module 1: Introduction to WSUD in the ACT (411.1 KB)

The first module provides an introduction to WSUD in the ACT, summarising the need for it and the policy and regulatory framework supporting its adoption.

  1. Introduction
  2. The need for WSUD in the ACT
  3. Solutions for a water sensitive Canberra
  4. ACT Water Sensitive Urban Design policy environment
  5. Key objective of Water Sensitive Urban Design in the ACT
  6. Water Sensitive Urban Design adoption framework in the ACT

Module 2: Designing successful WSUD solution in the ACT (411.1 KB)

The second module provides the practical guidance for the delivery of WSUD across the ACT, including recommendations for the planning, design, establishment, operation, maintenance and decommissioning of WSUD assets.

  1. Introduction
  2. Overview of the WSUD planning, design and delivery process
  3. Critical steps to WSUD planning
  4. Critical steps to WSUD design
  5. WSUD treatment assets construction and establishment
  6. WSUD treatment asset operation and maintenance
  7. Handover of WSUD treatment assets to the ACT Government
  8. Monitoring water quality
  9. Asset renewal and decommissioning

WSUD Review

A review of WSUD, released in August 2014, recommended significantly expanding the current WSUD measures. The review reiterated the importance of WSUD in our environment to manage our urban water cycle, encourages discussion and refined whole-of-government coordination to achieve better outcomes and reduced costs, and to address implementation of report recommendations.

The following documents informed the final review report:

Sullivans Creek and Inner North Reticulation Network

The Inner-North Reticulation Network is a prime example of water sensitive urban design. The network was officially launched in April 2015.

The network will provide up to 500 megalitres of storm water each year for irrigation of many of the large green open spaces in the inner north, replacing the high-quality drinking water previously used.

It will also improve water quality in Lake Burley Griffin, help the city adapt to climate change, and provide recreational facilities in the form of wetlands and green ovals.

Read more about the Sullivans Creek and Inner North Reticulation Network