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Australia's next step in water management

10 February 2010

James Gallagher (left) from development agency VicUrban with centre co-directors Associate Professor Rebekah Brown, Professor Tony Wong and Professor Ana Deletic at Officer, a new development in Melbourne's south east that is planned around water sensitive urban design.

A Monash-led multi-disciplinary research centre has been established to help Australians plan for the challenges of population growth and the effects of climate change on water supply.

The Centre for Water Sensitive Cities, an initiative of the Monash Sustainability Institute, was launched last week in Melbourne by Victorian Minister for Water Tim Holding.

The centre consolidates the University's research and development in advancing water-sensitive cities and will link 45 researchers and PhD students from the faculties of Engineering, Arts, Science, and Business and Economics.

Centre co-director Professor Tony Wong said the centre would explore best practice methods of implementing water-sensitive urban design at a government, industry and community level.

"Implementing water-sensitive urban design including building rain gardens, wetlands and ponds to capture and clean stormwater for reuse will improve liveability and visual and recreational amenity and improve the health of our urban waterways," Professor Wong said.

The launch included the announcement of the centre's $18.8 million Cities as Water Supply Catchments research program, which will address key issues of water security, sustainable urban water management, governance and the liveability of urban environments by focusing on the harvesting of stormwater.

The program, established in collaboration with University of Melbourne, University of Queensland, and AECOM - an engineering and architectural design company - will develop guidelines and blueprints to support the wide-scale integration of stormwater management practices into new urban developments.

Professor Wong said the capture and use of stormwater would deliver benefits not currently available including reduced demand on potable water sources, reduction in urban temperatures and reduced erosion and pollution of waterways.

"These benefits can be introduced progressively as part of the normal urban development and renewal process at a significantly lower cost than alternative water supply strategies," Professor Wong said.

The research program has been developed with input from key investors including the National Water Commission, state agencies, local governments, and water utilities.