Sustainable urban drainage systems SUDS
As population has increased, particularly in urban areas, and ‘soft’, permeable landscape has been replaced with hard surfaces, surface water runoff has reached traditional piped drainage faster and in larger quantities. This has been exacerbated by the loss of rural features that might once have slowed the passage of surface water, being replaced with large, intensively farmed fields that rapidly discharge surface water into piped drainage or waterways that make their way into urban areas.
The result has been higher peak flows resulting in serious flooding of urban areas, pollution, damage to habitat and contamination of groundwater sources.
Sustainable urban drainage systems aim to mimic 'natural' drainage by adopting techniques to deal with surface water runoff locally, through collection, storage, and cleaning before allowing it to be released slowly back into the environment.
According to CIRIA, ‘SUDS techniques seek to capture, use, delay or absorb rainwater, rather than reject it as a nuisance or problem. Sustainable drainage delivers multiple benefits. As well as delivering high quality drainage whilst supporting areas to cope better with severe rainfall, SuDS can also improve the quality of life in developments and urban spaces by making them more vibrant, visually attractive, sustainable and resilient to change by improving urban air quality, regulating building temperatures, reducing noise and delivering recreation and education opportunities.’
Image: rainwater capture at the Millennium Dome
Sustainable urban drainage systems might adopt strategies to:
- Reduce the likelihood of pollutants reaching watercources.
- Reduce runoff by reducing impermeable areas.
- Store runoff through attenuation.
- Allow water to infiltrate into the ground.
- Convey water slowly on the surface (where it is easy to inspect and can provide local amenity and habitat for wildlife).
- Allow sediments to settle out.
- Only then, and only if it cannot be dealt with on site, conveying runoff off site, but even then doing so slowly.
The benefits of sustainable urban drainage systems can include:
- Reducing flooding.
- Reducing the demand on existing drainage systems (potentially making a development viable in an area where it might otherwise not be viable).
- Enhancing water quality.
- Reducing pollution.
- Providing habitats for wildlife.
- Providing local amenity.
- Recharging groundwater and watercourses resulting in a reduced risk of drought.
SUDS techniques might include
- Filter strips and drains.
- Permeable surfaces.
- Basins and ponds.
- Underground storage.
- Green roofs.
- Rainwater harvesting.
Sustainable urban drainage systems should be considered during the site selection process. Different management strategies may be required for different parts of a site, and flows from roofs should also be considered.
 Legislation and delays
In October 2012, Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 came into force. This created the power to require the inclusion of sustainable drainage of surface water in developments that need planning approval or have drainage implications. It removed the automatic right, established by the Water Industry Act, to connect to public sewers and instead gave powers to local authorities as SUDS Approving Bodies (SAB’s) to approve new drainage systems and their connection to public sewers.
It was intended that sustainable drainage systems would be assessed relative to a new national standard that would address the way drainage systems are designed, constructed, maintained and operated, considering run-off destination, peak flow rates, volume and water quality.
The requirements of Schedule 3 were intended to be phased in over 3 years. Initially only major developments would have to submit sustainable drainage proposals for approval, but from October 2015 all developments of more than one house would need to seek approval.
However, in December 2014, the government announced that from April 6 2014, planning authorities would be given authority for approving SuDS on developments, not SuDS Approving Bodies. In addition it was announced that a threshold of 10 dwellings or more, or equivalent non-residential or mixed development will apply. See SuDS consultation for more information.
On 13 November 2015, CIRIA published The SuDS Manual (C753) which it described as the most comprehensive industry SuDS guidance available in the UK Intended to support uptake, manage floods and create better places and spaces. It deals with the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of SuDS. Its publication followed a ministerial statement made by The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government earlier in 2015 which made it clear that SuDS must play a greater role in the planning system, and that it is a requirement in new major developments wherever appropriate.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Catchment flood management plans.
- External works.
- Flood and Water Management Act.
- Flood insurance.
- Flood risk.
- Flood risk management plan.
- Future flood prevention.
- Future Water, The Government’s water strategy for England.
- Green roofs.
- Groundwater control in urban areas.
- Highway drainage.
- Marine energy and hydropower.
- Pitt Review.
- Planning for floods.
- Pumps and dewatering equipment.
- Rainwater harvesting.
- River engineering.
- Sewer construction.
- Statutory undertakers.
- SuDS infographic.
- Sustainable water.
- The SuDS Manual.
- Water Act 2014.
- Water consumption.
- Water engineering.
- Water transfers and interconnections.
 External references
- Construction Industry Research and Information Association.
- CIRIA BeST (Benefits of SuDS Tool, W045), a new, free Excel tool for use on PC.
- SUDS Wales.
- British Geological Society: SUDS.
Featured articles and news
BSRIA publish mechanical and electrical maintenance customer satisfaction key performance indicators.
Have a look at our article on the history, practice and techniques of placemaking.
Have a look at the key recommendations from ICE's new report on the digital transformation of infrastructure.
The Gate of Europe, the world's first inclining high-rises, with a lean of 15-degrees.
Why engineers need to keep pace with the challenges and opportunities of the digital transformation of the infrastructure sector.
Have a read of our introductory article on fabric structures; their history, properties and characteristics, and more...
Growing connectivity and what it means for physical infrastructure, disruptive new tech and increasing interdependencies.
Foster & Partners selected as architectural team for new bridge crossings in Ipswich.
Could this strange new concept be the future of skyscraper design?
Designing Buildings Wiki attended a RIBA panel debate on one of London's most notorious planning disputes.
Creating an accessible and inclusive environment – CIC publish new guide.
BRE report on the second day of MIPIM 2017.
Read about the 'Exceptional' sustainable design features of the recent winner of the coveted Your BREEAM Award.