Future urban water management options for Adelaide

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Project Partners:

CSIRO, The University of Adelaide, Flinders University, University of South Australia, and Other

Research Theme:

Urban Water

Status:

Project Overview

Adelaide could soon become a much harsher place to live as extreme temperature events become more common, alongside more frequent and intense floods and droughts. Increasing urbanisation is also reducing the amount of vegetation in the landscape and decreasing water retention. 

Water management is at the heart of these issues in Adelaide. We need water to support the plants that will help keep the city cool, mitigate climate change and improve liveability. Healthy waterways are also essential for our wellbeing and resilience. 

An independent panel of experts was brought together in 2022 by the Goyder Institute for Water Research to identify key actions and policy recommendations for urban water management that will help address the impact of rising urbanisation and climate change.

The Goyder Institute established a transdisciplinary and multi-organisational team of water experts* to undertake a series of facilitated workshops to identify:

  • Options for future urban water and urban waterway governance, funding and policy arrangements for Adelaide based on a review of the effectiveness of national and international models.
  • Integrated, on-ground management options for hydrological and ecological restoration to support healthy waterways, urban vegetation and associated urban cooling, and coastal environments.


* Baden Myers (Surface water hydrology, UniSA); Mellissa Bradley (Integrated water management, Water Sensitive SA); Chris Chesterfield (Governance, Monash University); Lin Crase (Economics, UniSA), Tanya Doody (Ecology, CSIRO), Howard Fallowfield (Water treatment, Flinders University), Huade Guan (Urban cooling, Flinders University), Martin Lambert (Surface water hydrology, The University of Adelaide), Tim Muster (Water technologies, CSIRO), Bruce Naumann (Stormwater harvesting and recycling, City of Salisbury), Melissa Jane Nursey-Bray (Social science, The University of Adelaide), Margaret Shanafield (Groundwater, Flinders University), Rachel Barratt (Policy and Planning, Jacobs)

Progress Update and Key Findings

The project team found that healthy waterways (blue spaces) and urban vegetation (green spaces) in Adelaide could best be supported by: 

  • ‘smart,’ integrated ‘blue–green’ catchment management plans. These should be designed to retain water in the landscape, prevent and delay stormwater from moving into receiving waters, and improve waterway and coastal environment condition
  • a connected and integrated water harvesting and reuse scheme across Adelaide
  • a program to research, monitor, and evaluate the effectiveness of on-ground actions to increase urban vegetation, limit runoff, and reduce the levels of fine sediments travelling to Adelaide’s coastline
  • a robust monitoring and compliance program in new and existing developments, with a particular focus on how water quality will affect receiving waters. 

The project team also reviewed national and international urban water management models and prepared costs–benefit analyses for five possible new governance options, including associated legislative changes. 

Among the recommendations are updates to the Water Industry Act 2012 and other legislation that would enable new governance arrangements to manage stormwater for flood control and as an integrated water resource for achieving economic, cultural, environmental and social outcomes. 

Proposed amendments to planning laws would also make sure that the true value of stormwater management is realised and that all new developments have appropriate regard for its value. 

Project Impacts

The Institute has previously provided advice to the Department of Environment and Water (DEW) which has informed the 2022 Urban Water Directions Statement. The project findings are being considered by a range of stakeholders including those involved in making recommendations to government on future funding and governance arrangements for stormwater.  

Research Outputs

Future urban water management options for a vibrant and resilient Adelaide

Project News

Adelaide could soon become a much harsher place to live as extreme temperature events become more common, alongside more frequent and intense floods and droughts. Increasing urbanisation is also reducing the amount of vegetation in the
Innovative urban water management will be critical for supporting the liveability of cities throughout the world under future climates. Climate change, population growth, urban expansion and the complexity of urban water management pose significant future challenges