Spotlight on Water by Design: sustainable urban water management

In 2004 and 2005, the Ecosystem Health Monitoring Program highlighted ‘diffuse source pollutant loads’ as having major impacts affecting water quality in the Moreton Bay region. To address this, Healthy Land and Water developed the well-respected initiative ‘Water by Design’ to support sustainable urban water management.


"In order to protect, restore and rehabilitate our urban waterways, the programs innovative and collaborative approach works across a wide diversity of stakeholders and communities to effectively build the capacity of water practitioners across the State to together deliver best practice sustainable urban water management outcomes."

- Rachael Nasplezes, Healthy Land and Water, Team Leader Water by Design


In order to protect, restore and rehabilitate the natural water cycle, the program effectively and efficiently delivers sustainable water management outcomes across the State.

The Water by Design program aims to deliver:

  • Improved skills and knowledge via a comprehensive suite of best-practice decision support guidelines and resources and capacity building programs.
  • A strengthened organisation capacity with forums for industry practitioners and government officers to foster collaboration, information sharing and positive development outcomes.
  • Guided regulatory reforms such as flexible arrangements for stormwater management, providing cost savings and benchmarking protection targets.
  • Increased incentives and encouragement for the community in the form of case studies, factsheets, and co-design projects.
  • Exemplar water sensitive urban design projects delivered across the State that demonstrate innovative and emerging approaches in sustainable urban water management.

The Water by Design initiative delivers a large portfolio of deliverables for South East Queensland each year. The work of the program is well-respected and sought-after, not only in South East Queensland, but by other organisations across the State, which benefit from the services of Healthy Land and Water's Water by Design team in delivering tailored programs in other catchments. We've profiled a small selection of just some of the many Water by Design activities that were rolled out during the year below.   

We've profiled a small selection of just some of the many Water by Design activities that were rolled out during the year below.

On the ground | Ferguson Park

The Ferguson Park upgrade is a project to enhance a section of Sandy Creek that flows through Ferguson Park, located between the Gaythorne and Enoggera train stations, in Enoggera.
The project, which commenced in 2019, is supported by the Australian Government and Brisbane City Council and seeks to improve the waterway values for Sandy Creek. Stormwater and urban runoff from Gizeh Street will be filtered via a new planted swale in Ferguson Park. The swale has been designed to mimic natural systems and their ability to manage water runoff, filter pollutants, and increase rainwater infiltration. Using a co-design approach this project has been developed in consultation with the local community, who, through the project have developed a local network who will work with the Kedron Brook Catchment Branch and Brisbane City Council, consisting of local residents who would like to care and nourish the creek into the future.

Healthy Land and Water believes that supporting communities to develop an emotional connection with their local waterways is crucial in protecting the health of South East Queensland’s waterways.

Capacity Building | Reef training day - Hervey Bay

In the 2019-2020 financial year, the Water by Design team undertook numerous activities to improve council and industry capacity in coastal urban centres within South East Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef region. These included running workshops and capacity building events, developing online resources, and providing support for the industry.

For the period between July 2019 and June 2020, Water by Design has delivered:

  • 4 Community of Practice events
  • 5 embedding activities
  • 2 supporting Regional Organisation of Council activities to update their Development Manuals and provide best practice USW and ESC materials to reference
  • 6 digital roadshow training events
  • 5 capacity building videos
  • 5 capacity building training workshops
  • 2 co-design process workshops and support

Resources | Online training portal

Water by Design continues to apply its fundamental principles of current best practice through innovation by developing an online learning portal to support their communities of practice during and post COVID-19. The online portal was developed by Healthy Land and Water as a response to the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 with funds reallocated toward delivery of four targeted training workshops delivered through the online training portal.

Four courses were prioritised as a training suite for the online portal and designed and developed for delivery: CoDesign, Strategic Waterways, Living Waterways and SPP Review Blueprint.

Blueprint for improving waterway management

The Water by Design team has continued the investigation into the State Planning Policy and the Stormwater Management Design Objectives and has drafted a blueprint for improving the management of our waterways. This blueprint has been developed in consultation with key sectors of the stormwater industry including councils, consultants and industry associations. The document proposes 12 strategies across three themes: Protect, Maintain and Enhance. This paper was sponsored by the Department of Environment and Science and is for discussion purposes only.