FLASHBACK TO 2005: Handbook for Water-Sensitive Urban Design in Australia, edited by John Argue
Note to Reader:
The following article was originally published in March 2005 to celebrate publication of Australia’s “WSUD Handbook”, edited by John Argue. In conjunction with the rollout, Alberta’s Bert van Duin provided John Argue with a peer review from an Alberta perspective. In August 2016, John Argue was honoured by Stormwater Australia with a Lifetime Membership in recognition of this pioneer and career achievements in advancing a water balance way-of-thinking-and-doing in Australia.
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 published in 2004 by the Australian Water Association, the Stormwater Industry Association, and the University of South Australia.
Edited 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. John Argue is the former head of the Urban Water Resources Centre at the University of South Australia.
Officer of the Order of Australia
In 2013, John Argue was awarded the Order of Australia. This recognised his:
‘Distinguished service to engineering through contributions to the development of stormwater management and technology as a researcher and academic.’
“This was wonderful recognition for John Argue who has made a lifetime contribution to quantity management in stormwater. It is also more than that; it is also recognition of an industry which continues to go from strength to strength,” stated Andrew Allan, President of Stormwater Australia.
Professor Argue has been a pioneer of sustainable ideas in water management in urban environments in Australia – working on innovative urban engineering ideas for the capture and reuse of urban water well before these ideas were in the headlines.
His passion for his work played a strong role in inspiring students to work and research in the field. His research into stormwater management commenced in the late 1970s at UniSA antecedent institution, the SA Institute of Technology.
He led research into the principles and application of water sensitive urban design and under the auspices of Engineering Education Australia has conducted workshops around the nation teaching an integrated approach to safely harvesting stormwater and protecting people, property, rivers, streams and the marine environment from polluted or unmanaged water flows.
To Learn More:
Download the Executive Summary written by John Argue for Water Sensitive Urban Design: Basic Procedures for ‘Source Control’ of Stormwater.
A British Columbia Perspective
Kim Stephens, Program Manager for the Water Balance Model, first met John Argue when both were part of the faculty for an Australian local government workshop program in 2001. When the Handbook was released, he provided this perspective:
“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.”
Influence on BC’s Stormwater Guidebook
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.
“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,” emphasized Kim Stephens.
An Alberta Perspective
Bert van Duin, an urban drainage specialist from Calgary, Alberta was drafting a Best Management Practices and Source Control Manual for the City of Calgary in 2005. He provided John Argue with a Peer Review of the Handbook.
“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,” stated Bert van Duin.
“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.”
“The Handbook offers numerous tidbits of information that are thought provoking. For instance, while mumbling under his breath that the Handbook did not address the concept of trying to match complete hydrographs as being advocated in certain parts of North America for the preservation of fisheries habitat, this reviewer suddenly found it discussed in a few paragraphs.”
“While the Handbook may not have recommended the implementation of this concept, it is comprehensive in discussing it. The reader will find numerous similar nuggets of information that will make one want to re-read the Handbook on several occasions to get the most out of it, because it contains so much information that one inevitably misses something along the way,” concluded Bert van Duin.
To Learn More:
Download Handbook Peer Review.