Sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS)
The idea behind SuDS is to try to replicate natural systems that use cost effective solutions with low environmental impact to drain away dirty and surface water run-off through collection, storage, and cleaning before allowing it to be released slowly back into the environment, such as into water courses. This is to counter the effects of conventional drainage systems that often allow for flooding, pollution of the environment – with the resultant harm to wildlife – and contamination of groundwater sources used to provide drinking water.
The paradigm of SuDS solutions should be that of a system that is easy to manage, requiring little or no energy input (except from environmental sources such as sunlight, etc.), resilient to use, and being environmentally as well as aesthetically attractive.
Examples of this type of system are basins (shallow landscape depressions that are dry most of the time when it’s not raining), rain-gardens (shallow landscape depressions with shrub or herbaceous planting), swales (shallow normally-dry, wide-based ditches), filter drains (gravel filled trench drain), bioretention basins (shallow depressions with gravel and/or sand filtration layers beneath the growing medium), reed beds and other wetland habitats that collect, store, and filter dirty water along with providing a habitat for wildlife.
A common misconception of SuDS systems is that they reduce flooding on the development site. In fact the SUDS system is designed to reduce the impact that the surface water drainage system of one site has on other sites. For instance, sewer flooding is a problem in many places. Paving or building over land can result in flash flooding. This happens when flows entering a sewer exceed its capacity and it overflows. The SuDS system aims to minimise or eliminate discharges from the site, thus reducing the impact, the idea being that if all development sites incorporated SuDS then urban sewer flooding would be less of a problem. Unlike traditional urban stormwater drainage systems, SuDS can also help to protect and enhance ground water quality.