WSUD Vision for the South West

A pioneering vision document  has been launched by AECOM, in close collaboration with local government, academic and public and private sector stakeholders, identifying a more sustainable response to urban and rural water management throughout South West England.

The landmark document has come from the findings of a workshop initiated by AECOM and hosted by South West Water. The workshop showcased water sensitive urban design (WSUD) as a leading approach to securing a more balanced relationship between water, the environment and communities. The workshop addressed, and the vision document highlights, the benefits and the barriers facing the implementation and delivery of WSUD. Participating stakeholders included South West Water, University of Exeter, the Environment Agency, Devon County Council, Plymouth City Council, Torbay Council and Cornwall Council. Since the workshop event, follow-up meetings have been held with workshop participants demonstrating a commitment to drive the vision for a water sensitive South West.

WSUD is an approach that originated in Australia where AECOM was instrumental in its successful delivery. It focuses on giving a greater priority to water management considerations at the earliest stages of development and regeneration. WSUD can reduce the impacts of climate change and population growth in towns and cities in the South West and across the country. It recognises that all elements of the water cycle are linked and provides a smarter, cost-effective approach to resource efficiency and future resilience.

Delivering WSUD can help to reduce flooding through sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) that can include natural vegetation features such as wetlands, swales and rain gardens. It can also save water by securing new water supplies from the rain that falls on urban centres as well as create green, attractive public spaces that provide new wildlife habitats and a healthier urban environment.

The vision document outlines the three key actions agreed by the participants in order to transition to a water-sensitive future for the region. These include:

  • The identification of WSUD champions within organisations and communities
  • The establishment of partnership working arrangements
  • The agreement from participants to realise the benefits of water sensitive solutions and show commitment to their delivery.

Tony Barrett, principal consultant at AECOM’s water practice in the UK, commented: “This vision document serves as a turning point in the delivery of WSUD in the South West. There are undoubtedly challenges to the implementation of WSUD. Collaboration, ownership and education are the crucial keys to success. The support from South West Water, local government organisations, the Environment Agency and the University of Exeter is essential to the planning and management of an improved urban water cycle and our future resilience. We are delighted that the momentum has been maintained since the workshop with continuing meetings with our stakeholders. It is this type of joined-up thinking that is critical to turn the vision for a water sensitive South West into a reality.”

Andrew Roantree, Head of Asset Management at South West Water, adds: “With population growth, climate change and urban creep, there is an urgent need to find innovative ways of preventing flooding and pollution in the future. There are collaborative, low-cost and natural solutions that will reduce flood risk, enhance neighbourhoods, prolong the life of our sewers, and make much better use of the rain that falls on our towns and cities. South West Water is committed to taking this water sensitive approach and working with other agencies to develop these win-win solutions.”

Access the document: Creating Water Sensitive South West


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