Authored book

Challenges and opportunities for implementing Water Sensitive Design in South Africa

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Publication Details

Author list: Carden, K., Armitage, N., Fisher-Jeffes, L., Winter, K., Mauck, B., Sanya, T., Bhikha, P., Mallett, G., Kanyerere, T. and Gxokwe, S

Publisher: Water Reseaecrh Commission

Place: Pretoria

Publication year: 2018

Start page: 1

End page: 74

Total number of pages: 74

ISBN: 978-0- 6392-0015-6



One of the most pressing issues of concern in South Africa is the availability and quality of water, both as a natural resource critical for human development, as well as a commodity that contributes significantly to the country’s economic growth. Worldwide, evidence suggests that the philosophy of Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) – an approach to urban planning and design that integrates the management of the entire urban water cycle into land use and development processes – offers a wider variety of choices in the management of scarce and often deteriorating water resources, and that it adds general economic and environmental value to cities. In the South African context, the WSUD approach can additionally be seen to transform urban areas, potentially connecting spatial divisions through the development of ‘blue-green corridors’, and ensuring greater equity in terms of the availability of a wider variety of water services – as well as through the adoption of alternative technologies and enterprise innovations that ensure water security.

The importance of an approach such as this was acknowledged in WRC study K5/2071(Armitage et al., 2014), which provided a framework and guidelines for WSUD in South Africa. However, outside of a relatively small number of professionals, there is a lack of information on the potential benefits that could result from implementing WSUD on a large scale in this country. A business case needs to be developed to show that it is a viable approach, and to encourage national / local authorities, developers and citizens to change their behaviour accordingly – specifically in a developing country such as South Africa which is committed to addressing the effects of rapid urbanisation, and achieving universal access to basic services in a manner that is resource-efficient whilst minimising environmental impact and improving affordability. It is not only urban and peri-urban environments that could benefit from such an approach; the integration of water cycle management into planning and design for the growth of communities needs to include rural settlements as well. For this reason, reference to the word ‘urban’ has been removed from the term WSUD; thus Water Sensitive Design (WSD) is envisioned as the enabler for ensuring that local authorities move closer to meeting developmental goals in all settlements where people dwell, irrespective of scale and locality.

The study has explored the challenges to and opportunities for the implementation of WSD in South Africa, mainly from a technical perspective – as highlighted through detailed catchment studies. The future development of policy on WSD in South Africa will likely be informed by the various different components of the project aimed at identifying opportunities for implementing the various WSD tools and techniques in selected urban catchments – including rainwater harvesting (RWH) and stormwater harvesting (SWH); sustainable (urban) drainage systems (SuDS), Water Conservation and Water Demand Management (WCWDM), water efficient devices, greywater harvesting, and groundwater use linked to managed aquifer recharge (MAR). WSD elements have been assessed in the design / redesign of precincts of the selected catchments to demonstrate how WSD could potentially improve water quality, water quantity, biodiversity and amenity value – thus creating liveable, sustainable and resilient outcomes for urban areas.


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Last updated on 2020-04-02 at 16:35