Sydney’s Raingarden Revolution

Saturday, March 29th, 2014
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A more informed public and strong leadership from local Governments have combined to bring about a boom in raingardens across our cities and in our backyards in recent years.

Raingardens, now common throughout major cities, capture stormwater runoff and provide an opportunity for sediments to settle and contaminants to be captured before the water continues into nearby waterways.

The City of Sydney, in partnership with the Sydney Metropolitan Catchment Management Authority, is proving raingardens do not have to be clunky pieces of infrastructure. If designed well, they provide opportunities for urban landscaping, footpath renewal and public realm upgrades.

Since 2010, the installation of raingardens has been prioritised and incorporated into any Footpath Renewal or Pedestrian Crossings and Traffic Calming (PCTC) upgrades undertaken across the City. Today, a visit to any of the 10 villages that make up the City of Sydney will showcase the benefits of this initiative, though the public may not even notice the Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) upgrades straight away. This is a credit to their design success.

In many ways, the design is simple on the surface, with native grasses and other plantings covering the complex filtration systems underneath. However, this soft edging is elusive and like many effective design solutions, has many benefits beyond its simplicity. The raingardens have improved pedestrian comfort and enhanced neighbourhoods’ human scale, slowing traffic and making spaces more attractive. The inclusion of project signage before, during and after construction has raised awareness of WSUD while educating local residents of the raingardens’ functions and processes.


The incorporation of raingardens into the City’s existing urban fabric highlights the successful integration of urban planning and design with the management, protection and conservation of our waterways. While the City of Sydney is now comfortable with a formula for the successful installation of raingardens, it has been a learning curve in terms of cross organisational collaboration, plant selection, design treatments and public engagement. The City of Sydney acknowledges this and continues to finetune their approach to raingarden design.

Over the coming years, the City of Sydney will continue its campaign for the integration of raingardens into the existing streetscape but will also focus on the provision of water harvesting systems in an effort to ‘drought-proof’ local parks.

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