A key topic of research for the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities has been understanding the interdependency between urban planning and water planning in creating water sensitive cities. In particular, we’ve been investigating how we can better integrate these two processes to deliver water sensitive outcomes.

To that end, our Integrated Research Project 3 team (Guiding integrated urban and water planning) has developed a framework and principles, emphasising 5 activities that provide key opportunities for delivering water sensitive outcomes by integrating urban and water planning.

Importantly, the framework and principles recognise there is no single approach to delivering water sensitive outcomes. Instead, they aim to prompt practitioners to think holistically about their context so they can design their own planning pathways for delivering water sensitive urban development.


The framework identifies 5 planning activities

  1. Establish a fit-for-purpose collaboration – This activity is about bringing together all the relevant stakeholders from different sectors (e.g. water providers, urban planners, local governments, developers, community representatives) to define and advance a shared agenda for development and responsibilities over time. This central activity provides the forum/s for carrying out all other planning activities.
  2. Investigate the development context – This activity involves understanding the biophysical and socio-institutional attributes of a place, to identify local opportunities and challenges. It is a key input to all other planning activities.
  3. Create a place-based vision and set of development scenarios – This activity involves creating a shared vision for a place that aligns stakeholder aspirations and builds momentum towards its realisation. The vision also serves as a guidepost for preparing more specific development scenarios.
  4. Analyse development scenarios and servicing options – This activity involves testing, comparing and refining different development scenarios and servicing options, to identify the ideal scenario and options that optimise performance and are economically feasible.
  5. Facilitate implementation – This activity involves embedding the optimised development scenario and servicing options within policies and plans, funding and financing, and service delivery arrangements to ensure they are delivered as envisioned.

These core principles guide practitioners, by helping them interpret and apply the framework.

  • Different entry points – Although the framework presents planning activities sequentially, they are more likely to occur iteratively and may overlap, potentially creating different entry points for integrated urban and water planning.
  • Contextual awareness – There is no one-size-fits-all approach to integrated urban and water planning. The unique features of a particular context need to inform the planning, design and implementation of urban development.
  • Multi-scale perspective – The focus of planning activities should not be confined to the site or precinct under investigation; a place should also be understood within its broader catchment and regional context.
  • Levels of practice – Each framework application will look different, depending on the ambitions, aspirations and complexity of context.
  • Agents of change – Individuals and organisations can determine the success of any planning activity. To ensure the best outcomes, planning activities should consider the personal qualities and skills of individuals involved, as well as their connections across organisations and communities of practice.

To help practitioners, the guideline explains each activity and illustrates it with examples from around the country. It’s the latest in a series of outputs designed to demonstrate how water planning and urban planning can be better integrated in practice. You’ll find more information about IRP3 on our website.

Last updated: 31st Mar 2021