SuDS: The Alarming Disconnect Between Desire and Reality

Written By: Regional Technical Manager, Hydro International UK Stormwater Divison

Surface Water Swale

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) today published a new report into sustainable drainage systems (SuDS).

The report—A Place For SuDS—urges the government to reduce flood risk by making effective flow control,storage and treatment of stormwater a condition of all new developments in the UK.

The report also includes outcomes and responses from the “Big SuDS Survey”, a survey of industry professionals aimed at gauging attitudes and opinions towards sustainable drainage systems, equipment and technology.

The results of this survey correlate closely with the SuDS: The State of the Nation survey that we reported on at the end of last year, and they suggest a disconnect between the kinds of systems that our engineers want to deliver—and the kinds of systems they are able to deliver.

There was strong support for proprietary systems in the SuDS: The State of the Nation survey. 77% of respondents considered that proprietary systems—such as filters and vortex separators—are an essential part of the SuDS toolbox, 70% said that proprietary systems could be used as enablers for green infrastructure, 63% said that proprietary systems could improve long-term maintenance, and 53% said that wider use of proprietary systems would lead to greater implementation of SuDS.

However, the Big SuDS Survey results indicate that proprietary systems are only being implemented in just over 7% of SuDS projects.

This suggests that an alarming gap exists between what SuDS professionals want and what they are able to deliver.

Our engineers understand better than anyone what makes good SuDS, and we should take heed of their advice. They are telling us that proprietary systems are a powerful component of robust, long-term SuDS, and that overlooking or deprioritising them risks undermining the effectiveness of these projects. We should not ignore this.

We support the findings and recommendations in the A Place For SuDS report, and we urge those in the industry to take the time to read it and digest its findings—but some of the results of the Big SuDS Survey should set alarm bells ringing if we want to develop SuDS that will reliably protect our homes, our businesses and our environment.

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