EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

SuDS+: establishing a new vision for sustainable drainage in delivering  sustainable and resilient urban communities 

Eleanor Starkey and Edward Rollason
Eleanor Starkey and Edward Rollason
  • Northumbria University, Geography and Environmental Sciences, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, United Kingdom of Great Britain – England, Scotland, Wales (

Nature-based Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) have been promoted for enhancing urban drainage, as well as offering additional benefits to urban greening and amenity, and engaging communities in the design and adoption of schemes. However, a lack of data on the efficacy of nature-based options means that schemes often use traditional engineering approaches instead of nature-based designs. Where nature-based options are used, most schemes lack long-term monitoring to understand their effectiveness; interventions are rarely designed to maximise their potential and often underperform once constructed. Existing practices also mean that most schemes are led by technical expertise and hence proceed with token public engagement, and lack support for community acceptance and adoption. This is unsustainable and undermines SuDS as a crucial tool for climate adaptation and sustainable urban development.

The SuDS+ approach argues for a radical rethink of the benefits of SuDS, de-prioritising drainage as their primary driver, and instead conceptualising ‘SuDS+’ as a multi-benefit urban development tool with a range of co-, not additional, benefits. In this approach SuDS become a vehicle for enhancing urban design, amenity, and health and wellbeing which can be adapted to meet community needs and aspirations.

The SuDS+ project, a 5-year Defra funded study in the Northeast of England, aims to develop and deliver community-centred SuDS, embedding innovation in collaborative design, as well as pushing forward new technologies and approaches for nature-based urban water management, and co-developing our understanding of what and how to monitor interventions to develop a robust evidence-base for the future.

This paper outlines the key challenges and how the project will aim to tackle these as a call to reimagine SuDS as a vehicle for delivering greener, healthier, more sustainable, and more resilience urban communities.

How to cite: Starkey, E. and Rollason, E.: SuDS+: establishing a new vision for sustainable drainage in delivering  sustainable and resilient urban communities , EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-3381,, 2023.