Water-sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) – Adapting the Australian Experience

Water-sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) is a term coined by a multi-disciplinary group of practitioners and academics in Western Australia, in the early 1990s, to describe the ‘new thinking’ then emerging about sustainable water cycle management in the urban landscape in Australia. To assist practitioners in designing rainwater source control measures, A Handbook for Australian Practice was recently published by the Australian Water Association, the Stormwater Industry Association, and the University of South Australia.

Australian wsud handbookEdited by John Argue, a leading Australian authority in the field of urban hydraulics and hydrology, the Handbook is a compilation of proven approaches that are aimed at solving everyday problems of small-scale rainwater management. Click here to read the Executive Summary and to obtain details on how to purchase the Handbook.

John Argue is the former head of the Urban Water Resources Centre at the University of South Australia. According to Kim Stephens, Project Coordinator for the Water Balance Model, who first met John Argue when both were part of the faculty for an Australian local government workshop program in 2001: “John Argue is widely recognized as one of the leading specialists on infiltration processes in the English-speaking world. Although retired from teaching, he is still active as an Adjunct Professor and Consultant. John was a member of the international Expert Panel that contributed its wisdom to the early development of the Water Balance Model.”

In 2002, John Argue visited British Columbia and conducted a seminar for municipalities in the Greater Vancouver Regional District. This provided a timely and reassuring opportunity for knowledge-transfer on the challenges and practical aspects of infiltration in difficult soils, especially clay. This is an issue of great importance in Australia, mainly because the major human settlement areas (notably Sydney) are underlain by reactive clay. According to Mr. Stephens: “The Water Balance Model embodies the ‘John Argue way of thinking’ in terms of how infiltration is approached. We relied heavily on his applied research when we developed aspects of the Water Balance Methodology for Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia.”

Click here for a Handbook Peer Review by Bert van Duin, an urban drainage specialist from Calgary, Alberta who is currently drafting a Best Management Practices and Source Control Manual for the City of Calgary. Mr. van Duin notes that: “While the book of course targets Australian practice and therefore contains numerous design graphics specifically derived for the various regions of Australia, nothing stops the discerning reader from developing similar graphics for other, similar regions of the world. Indeed, this reviewer has already commenced doing so for the Canadian prairies. Although appropriate adjustments may be necessary for cold climate applications, it does not take away from the fact that the approaches are in principle universal.”

John argue & bert van duin

John Argue (left) of South Australia, and Bert van Duin (right) of Alberta


Posted July 2006