Water Sensitive Cities Toolkit
The Water Sensitive Cities Toolkit (WSC Toolkit) supports strategic planning and the development of both robust and water sensitive business cases, by enabling evidence-based quantification of multiple benefits deliverable through context-specific planning, design, and implementation of green infrastructure initiatives in urban areas.
Scale of application
The WSC Toolkit comprises three functional components: (i) strategic planning and conceptual design, (ii) future climate uncertainty and variability (in development), and (iii) scenario assessment and multi-benefit evaluation. UrbanBEATS provides the strategic planning and conceptual design. This model combines urban planning information and geospatial data to automatically generate a large number of stormwater management options based on a user-defined scenario. Future climate variability is considered through a database of rainfall data predictions and their associated uncertainty (currently under development). These predictions can be used as a standalone dataset for various applications, and as input data to assess future climate scenarios.
Scenario assessment and multiple-benefit evaluation tools include:
- treatment performance: evaluates the water quality treatment and harvesting performance (MUSIC);
- stream health – stream hydrology and water quality: calculates four indices of direct ecological relevance to stream health;
- stream health – minor flooding and stream erosion: estimates the impact of water sensitive initiatives on stream erosion potential (using the stream erosion index); and
- microclimate: estimates the reduction in average summer-time and extreme heat temperatures achieved through changes in land surface cover (for example, increasing irrigation and tree canopy cover).
Flow and water quality data generated by the Model for Urban Stormwater Improvement Conceptualisation (MUSIC) via a dynamic link to the WSC Toolkit is used in many of the scenario assessment modules. The Toolkit is able to import and export GIS-based files for pre- and post-processing and visualisation.
The diversity of independent but linked modelling tools incorporated in the WSC Toolkit means that it has a diverse target audience. Potential end users, including participants in collaborative decision-making processes utilising the WSC Toolkit, include:
- state government (urban planning and water planning professionals): supporting the development of regional water strategies as part of strategic regional planning;
- local government (urban planning and design, environment and waterways, and landscape architecture professionals): collaborative strategic planning of water sensitive and green infrastructure initiatives as part of municipal and local area planning;
- water utilities (strategic planning professionals): supporting the development of water servicing strategies (quantifying the multiple benefits of stormwater harvesting as part of a portfolio of water supply options); and
- consultants (urban planning and development, water management): supporting state government, local government, water utilities with water sensitive strategic planning initiatives; and supporting water sensitive urban development/redevelopment proposals and plans.
Engagement with CRCWSC participants and the wider urban water industry is currently being undertaken via:
- WSC Toolkit seminars, workshops, and a training session (typically attended by representatives from state governments, local governments, water utilities, and consultants);
- CRCWSC industry workshops (general engagement with CRCWSC partner organisations);
- case study collaborations (currently City West Water, Melbourne; and City of Unley, Adelaide); and
- more than 30 students, local government, water utility, and consultancy representatives.
Status and future development
A number of aspects of the toolkit are currently under development:
- improvements are being made to the main user interface and the usability of the tool;
- future climate uncertainty and variability: rainfall and evapotranspiration datasets for most Australian state-capital cities that incorporate future uncertainty and variability associated with climate change (assessment of the resilience of proposed green infrastructure initiatives to future climate uncertainty);
- valuing non-market benefits: a tool linking key biophysical performance indicators (existing Toolkit outputs) to non-market valuations of related benefits (for example, linking temperature reduction through urban greening to community preference for lower maximum temperatures in summer); and
- multi-criteria evaluation of individual green infrastructure scenarios.
The WSC Toolkit is currently only available to beta-testers. Decision on a software license is still pending. Interested partners may inquire about obtaining a copy of the current version by contacting one of the researchers (see below).