We were recently invited to help apply water sensitive urban design principles in ‘protect mode’ to safeguard the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, one of Australia’s most iconic ecological landmarks.
The Blue Mountains City Council used the principles to develop the Draft Water Sensitive Blue Mountains Strategic Plan, which will set the future direction for how the council manages these important waterways and water resources going forward.
Usually applied to restore the balance in our cities, in this instance our water sensitive urban design principles will be applied to a different question: how to protect one of Australia’s important World Heritage-listed water resources from increasing pressures from urban development, stormwater runoff and climate change?
Blue Mountains waterways sustain a unique diversity of animals and plants, feed into vital water supplies, and attract regular visitors. But, the council’s water monitoring in 2017 showed that 39 per cent of the Blue Mountains waterways were in poor to fair health, and challenges such as climate change and population growth in Greater Sydney pointed to the need to rethink the way water is used and valued.
Council decided to manage water in the city in a more ‘water sensitive’ way, which includes championing best practice stormwater management and building community water literacy. A water sensitive approach will help council protect the World Heritage waterways, build resilience to climate change, and enhance quality of life. The CRCWSC has been invited to help engage the Blue Mountains community to finalise this strategic plan.
And in further exciting news: the Draft Water Sensitive Blue Mountains Strategic Plan has now become the start of something bigger. The CRCWSC is working with WaterNSW on its new Urban Program. WaterNSW is responsible for supplying water to customers in the Greater Sydney drinking water catchment and in New South Wales’ regulated surface water systems. Under the program, which focuses on sewage and stormwater issues, WaterNSW will partner with nearby councils to assist councils with strategies and resources to implement best practice water sensitive urban design, and therefore reduce the effects of stormwater contamination on Sydney’s drinking water supplies.
The Blue Mountains City Council is one of the councils nominated under the Urban Program and will join Goulburn Mulwaree Council and possibly others as the program grows.
Over the next few months, the CRCWSC will be working closely with the participating councils to develop community visions for waterways and to bring this information into a strategy that will transition the region into a water sensitive city. This builds on the work of IRP1 and its recent application in metropolitan Sydney, as well as other social research completed in tranche 1.