Urban runoff and water sustainability in urban design

  •   14 August 2017

The issue of conserving our environment is a complex one. While reducing our material usage, reusing what already exists and recycling other products are all valuable steps towards reducing the impacts of climate change, they cannot be the only strategies adopted in an integrated approach.

Sustainability is not just a matter of products. A holistic approach must also encompass how the built environment responds to its context and to its inherent natural processes. This is more important than ever, as extreme weather events become more frequent, placing extra stress on – and accelerating the degradation of – both our natural and built environments.

Australia has long been known for its capricious weather and extreme climate conditions, ranging from flash floods to extreme droughts in a seemingly narrow space of time. These extreme weather events have been exacerbated as a result of climate change, and have presented significant problems to the natural environment.

When heavy rainfall is paired with the rapid growth of our urban environments, one of the issues that results is urban runoff. Rain travels from roofs to gardens, footpaths, roads and carparks before landing in our stormwater network. On its way into the ocean, stormwater inevitably collects a number of contaminants which, in their final resting place, end up upsetting the delicate nutrient balance of our natural water table.

The harmful chemicals and substances that find their way into our stormwater system comes from any number of places. For instance, nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilisers, heavy metals such as zinc and lead from our roads, in addition to your standard-issue garbage and detritus. A city such as Sydney sheds 500 billion litres of stormwater into the ocean per annum – the equivalent of the water within Sydney Harbour – which has significant consequences for the water networks that sustain our natural ecosystems. Not to mention our drinking supply.

In order to tackle this issue, Australia’s federal, state and territory governments have sought to adopt Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) practices. Some of these include increasing natural water infiltration, promoting organic alternatives to fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides, and slowing the discharge of stormwater runoff. Increasing the length of time that stormwater takes to reach natural waterways allows for a longer filtration process, to remove the harmful pollutants and foreign bodies picked up in the initial stages of its development.

The need for initial filtration becomes even more valuable in countries such as Australia, where stormwater typically goes untreated. This can be done by ensuring impervious surfaces (such as pavement) are graded so that water flows towards vegetated areas, and increasing the amount of permeable surfaces (such as pebble paths and garden areas) to recapture lost nutrients.

As the best WSUD practices show, additional steps that can be taken include reducing the use of fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides, and positioning drains on slight gradients in order to prevent land erosion and dispersal of soils. Finally, employing quality drainage products that are made from non-toxic, non-oxidising and durable materials – such as stainless steel – and positioning them in the most suitable areas will also limit the damage caused by urban runoff.

For over 25 years, Stormtech have been creating innovative solutions to our stormwater runoff problems. Specifically, they have done this through the creation of high-quality linear drainage. Manufactured using 316-marine-grade stainless steel, and a 304-grade stainless steel drainage channel, Stormtech’s architecturally designed drainage systems are suitable for indoor and outdoor use. These systems encourage the effective pre-filtering of urban runoff, thereby reducing the amount of gross pollutants that would otherwise end up in our natural waterways.

A tailor-made approach to high-quality manufacturing ensures that Australia’s unique environmental challenges are being adequately addressed. Consumers have added peace of mind with a 10-year warranty on workmanship.

WSUD strategies inform every stage of Stormtech’s products, and together these aspects justify a Level A Gold GreenTag rating for Stormtech’s range of linear drains. From the design and manufacturing through to the installation of their drainage systems, Stormtech is the only drainage company with such credentials. This positions them at the very top end of the sustainable building product market.

Architecture & Design are proud to announce Stormtech as the 2017 ‘Single Dwelling Alteration or Addition’ Sponsor for this year’s Sustainability Awards. To find out more about the awards, click here.


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