Water Sensitive Urban Design

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 and treated wastewater and encouraging water efficient appliances
  • 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 under the Territory Plan. The General Code is designed to encourage reduced use of mains water, to improve water quality and to manage stormwater flows in urban areas.

A review of WSUD, released in August 2014, recommends significantly expanding the current WSUD measures. The review reiterates 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:

From 31 March 2008, property owners who are building, redeveloping or significantly extending their properties will need to demonstrate how they meet a new 40 per cent water efficiency target. This applies to all residential, commercial and industrial developments.

Single residential options

Refer Single Dwelling Housing Development Code – Rule 43.

For single residential buildings, the following options will be deemed to comply with this target

Option 1: Rainwater tank

Block size Minimum tank size (litres) Minimum roof area connected to tank >Tank connected to at least:
250 to 500 m² 2,000 50% or 75m² Toilet, laundry cold water, all external uses
500 to 800 m² 4,000 50% or 100m² Toilet, laundry cold water, all external uses
> 800 m² 5,000 50% or 125m² Toilet, laundry cold water, all external uses

Option 2: Greywater system, treating water to Class A standard

  • All bathroom and laundry greywater is to be captured
  • Greywater is to be connected to all toilet, laundry cold water and all external uses

For single residential blocks less than 300m2, inclusion of water efficient plumbing fixtures, which are already mandatory, will be deemed to comply with the water use target

If you wish to demonstrate an alternative method of achieving the water reduction target, then this will be considered. Contact us for more information.

Use the single residential waterways calculator to identify how the water efficiency targets can be met.

Commercial and industrial options

Please refer to the Waterways: Water Sensitive Urban Design General Code for full details. This is available from the Territory Plan.

Planning controls and technical standards

Design professionals and construction occupation professionals may also need to refer to the following planning guidelines and technical standards:


Three different waterways calculators have been developed to assist in identifying how the water efficiency targets can be met.

The calculators have been designed specifically for the Canberra region - with local water usage statistics, rainfall data and watering requirements.

Advice on requirements and options for stormwater quality and quantity targets are contained in the Waterways Code (within the General Codes of the Territory Plan).