Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Activating water-sensitive urban design for healthy resilient communities

“Water Sensitive Urban Design” or WSUD is an alternative to conventional forms of urban development. It uses natural soil and plant processes to manage stormwater, promote water re-use and enhance urban liveability and human wellbeing.

WSUD has also been called Low Impact Urban Design (LIUD or LID) or Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDs), or Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD ).

New Zealand may the best place in the world for WSUD – many areas have a temperate climate with frequent rain and year-round plant growth, and passing storm water through plants and soil instead of piping it straight to streams and aligns with kaitiaki values. WSUD has been used in New Zealand for more than 10 years, but barriers remain to its widespread adoption, and in many places its full benefits haven’t been realised – especially its community liveability benefits.

This 15 month research project aims to enhance New Zealand’s WSUD capability via engaged, active, community of practice networks based on workshops and field trips.

In November and December 2017 we conducted a survey and held workshops to identify the barriers to WSUD. The information we have collected will now help us to:

  • develop a prioritised 9-12 month research plan identifying quick wins that we can address in this research
  • develop a longer-term "Activating WSUD in New Zealand" plan

We will be disseminating the findings of our research at workshops in early 2019.

Key hypothesis

Our key hypothesis is that relative to prevailing forms of urban development, WSUD performs more strongly under a comprehensive assessment of wider benefits.

When we consider public and private benefits across social, cultural environmental and economic wellbeings, we are likely to see stronger and more diverse sources of support for WSUD.


Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities National Science ChallengeThis work forms part of the Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities National Science Challenge

Research team

Our research team is a collaboration between:

WSUD participants