Can water sensitive urban design systems help to preserve natural channel-forming flow regimes in an urbanised catchment?

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Increased stormwater runoff and pollutant loads due to catchment urbanisation bring inevitable impacts on the physical and ecological conditions of environmentally sensitive urban streams. Water sensitive urban design (WSUD) has been recognised as a possible means to minimise these negative impacts. This paper reports on a study that investigated the ability of infiltration-based WSUD systems to replicate the predevelopment channel-forming flow (CFF) regime in urban catchments. Catchment models were developed for the ‘pre-urban’, ‘urban’ and ‘managed’ conditions of a case study catchment and the hydrological effect on CFF regime was investigated using a number of flow indices. The results clearly show that changes to flow regime are apparent under urban catchment conditions and are even more severe under highly urbanised conditions. The use of WSUD systems was found to result in the replication of predevelopment flow regimes, particularly at low levels of urbanisation. Under highly urbanised conditions (of managed catchments) overcontrol of the CFF indices was observed as indicated by flow statistics below their pre-urban values. The overall results suggest that WSUD systems are highly effective in replicating the predevelopment CFF regime in urban streams and could be used as a means to protect environmentally sensitive urban streams.

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