Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDS)

Want to know more about Sustainable Urban Drainage systems (SuDS) and how to keep everybody safe?

What are Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems?

Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDS) are a sequence of structures that are designed to slow down surface water and ultimately prevent flooding in a sustainable manner. Often sustainable drainage systems are located in high population areas, due to the requirements for developers to consider these systems for housing schemes and other large developments.

SuDS can, if not well designed, present a significant risk to the children, residents and general public that will interact with them. However, well-designed and managed SuDS should offer a low risk profile for users to the area and can actually enhance the general environment.

What are the risks of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems?

Anywhere that people interact with water can present a risk. Sometimes these risks are very small, but every year, in the UK, around 400 people die from drowning as a result of an accident in or around water. This is double the number of people that die in work-related accidents each year. RoSPA want to help landowners, designers, contractors, local authorities and of course families prevent accidents and avoid drowning in Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDS).

What are the benefits of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDS)?

Regulating authorities such as the Environment Agency describe the objectives of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDS) as being:

  • To control the quantity and rate of run-off from a development
  • To improve the quality of the run-off
  • To enhance the nature conservation, landscape and amenity value of the site and its surroundings

SuDS deal with run-off as close to its source as possible and balance all three objectives, rather than focusing only on flood prevention. Implementing SuDS contributes significantly towards achieving a sustainable development, so when planning or specifying, early consideration of the potential benefits and designing out risk will help deliver cost effective SuDS schemes with the best results. Many adopting agencies and Local Authorities recognise the importance of SUDS design assessments and expect that these are included in development proposals.

How do Sustainable Urban Drainage systems work?

Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDS) are commonly constructed structures, though this is not always the case. Most systems will incorporate one or more of the following:

  • Permeable surfaces
  • Filter strips
  • Filter and infiltration trenches
  • Swales
  • Detention basins
  • Bioretention systems / raingardens
  • Wetlands and ponds.

It is also common for schemes to include hydraulic controls or silt-trap arrangements. These may also seek to encourage absorption of certain polluting substances such as oils and toxic metals. These features can introduce hazards which are difficult for children and others to identify, especially during periods of high flow or flood.

Safety issues arise from introducing bodies of water and hydro engineering into residential areas without full consideration of the potential risks this can cause.

Who is responsible for a Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDS)?

A number of standards are in place which set out the duties and expectations of those with responsibility for safety around Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDS), e.g. local planning authorities, asset owners/managers and designers etc., including:

  • The Flood and Water Management Act 2010
  • The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
  • The Water Framework Directive
  • The National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy for England
  • The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • The Occupiers Liability Act 1957 & 1984
  • The Construction, Design and Management Regulations 2015

The designer and constructor often is neither the adopter nor the user. We help the adopters and the public recognise well-designed and safe Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDS) and reject those which are unsafe. Safety standards are best and most cost-effective when they are designed into the scheme at an early stage, not designed out once the scheme has been completed.

How can we help?

We’re the founding member of the National Water Safety Forum and wholly endorse the National Drowning Prevention Strategy, which seeks to halve the number of drownings in the UK by 2026.

As part of our contribution to improving water safety risk across all inland water bodies, we generate and use a unique risk-rating tool for all water bodies types, including SuDS, in the UK.

If you are planning to develop a Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDS) or currently have one by your home – then our SuDS report will be able to assess the comparative safety risk of this system and report on recommendations to ensure that it has been designed responsibly and people are kept safe.


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