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Designing water efficient verges and gardens 22/10/2016

There are landscaping options such as native or drought-tolerant planting as well as landscaping that can capture and utilise stormwater.

There are landscaping options such as native or drought-tolerant planting as well as landscaping that can capture and utilise stormwater.

Stormwater is the runoff from surfaces such as roads and driveways after rain or a storm event.

This water can be captured in obvious ways, such as off roofs and gutters into rainwater tanks to be used for irrigation purposes, or, we can design elements around our home such as driveways and gardens to be more porous and soak up this water.

Stormwater that is drawn back into the ground through porous surfaces can then recharge shallow aquifers and supplement our water supplies.

A number of developments in WA feature water sensitive urban design, which takes a holistic approach to water use and efficiency across the project, including street verges.

Examples include Alkimos Beach, an EnviroDevelopment accredited project that features Integrated Water Cycle Management.

At an individual lot level, most developers provide front landscaping packages for homebuyers as well as comprehensive ‘smart’ landscaping guidelines to assist residents with implementation of sustainable, water efficient gardens.

Port Coogee is another example of how water efficiency can be introduced to maintain green spaces, with a ‘third pipe’ system which delivers groundwater to individual homes to irrigate household gardens.

Overall, there are many alternative ways we can build and maintain our street verges and land around our homes in order to conserve water and ensure they are useable and aesthetically pleasing spaces. Street verges are an important element of the aesthetics and amenity of residential areas and getting the landscaping and design right is critical for both liveability and sustainability reasons.

Depending on the location and style of development, verges might be designed with predominantly grass, paving, vegetation or a mixture of all of these elements.

What is important is that they are designed appropriately for each location and limit water consumption to reasonable levels.

Verges and what we use to landscape them have been in the spotlight recently following comments from the Water Corporation CEO Sue Murphy at a UDIA luncheon on our water future earlier this year.

Ms Murphy discussed the need to appropriately plan for Western Australia’s drying climate and one aspect of this issue is considering how the land around our homes can be designed to conserve and utilise water efficiently – including front verges.

While verges, private gardens and public spaces more broadly should be appropriately designed to suit the WA climate, there are a range of factors that can assist us in achieving water saving targets, including drainage solutions, ground water recharge and water re-use.

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