Effective Promotion of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SUDS): Through Desperation or Inspiration?

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The UK is highly urbanised, experiencing huge pressures to construct more houses, shops and businesses. Such development can cause adverse impacts on surface and groundwater flows, prompting increases in overland flooding, excessive river bank erosion, deteriorating water quality and ecological damage. Engineers traditionally disposed of urban rainwater rapidly to the nearest watercourse through pipes, placing it out of sight and mind under normal circumstances. However, extreme events such as the unprecedented Central England rainfall of July 2007 demonstrated problems with this. The 130-year event created chaos, with thousands of inundated houses, and crucial water treatment and power facilities damaged. Communities were not resilient, and some areas came close to rioting. Although an extreme event, flooding was clearly exacerbated by piped drainage. Methods of mitigating the hydrological effects of developments, through ‘Sustainable Drainage Systems’ (SUDS) have been known for years. They involve designing to promote infiltration and storage of water locally, reducing the flood peaks. However despite increasing fears of flooding and government promotion, SUDS technologies are not widely adopted. Research into English SUDS examples suggests that opportunities to capitalise on water’s aesthetic qualities have been largely missed. Many SUDS sites use deep concrete tanks, porous paving and linear infiltration ditches to reduce flood peaks. But they fail to inspire, do not sufficiently encourage biodiversity, and deter public access. Far more beautiful soft landscapes are possible, which may be more effective in prompting widespread adoption of SUDS than many of the current demonstration examples.


Keywords: Water, Flooding, Sustainable Drainage Systems, Landscapes, Aesthetics
Stream: Environmental Sustainability
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Prof. Carolyn Roberts

University Professor, Centre for Active Learning, University of Gloucestershire
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK

A water resource scientist in origin, I undertake research and consultancy related to new urban developments. I also have interests in teaching and learning in Higher Education, specifically the promotion of active, inquiry-based styles of learning by students. With a colleague I direct a national Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.A current project being undertaken jointly with Landscape Architects Illman-Young Associates involves exploring the potential of sustainable drainage systems to promote flood reduction and water quality improvements. The best SUDS projects also promote beautiful, biodiverse and accessible landscapes.

Ref: S08P0188