The microscale cooling effects of water sensitive urban design and irrigation in a suburban environment

Ashley M. Broadbent, Andrew M. Coutts, Nigel J. Tapper, Matthias Demuzere, Jason Beringer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Prolonged drought has threatened traditional potable urban water supplies in Australian cities, reducing capability to adapt to climate change and mitigate against extreme. Integrated urban water management (IUWM) approaches, such as water sensitive urban design (WSUD), reduce the reliance on centralised potable water supply systems and provide a means for retaining water in the urban environment through stormwater harvesting and reuse. This study examines the potential for WSUD to provide cooling benefits and reduce human exposure and heat stress and thermal discomfort. A high-resolution observational field campaign, measuring surface level microclimate variables and remotely sensed land surface characteristics, was conducted in a mixed residential suburb containing WSUD in Adelaide, South Australia. Clear evidence was found that WSUD features and irrigation can reduce surface temperature (Ts) and air temperature (Ta) and improve human thermal comfort (HTC) in urban environments. The average 3 pm Ta near water bodies was found to be up to 1.8 °C cooler than the domain maximum. Cooling was broadly observed in the area 50 m downwind of lakes and wetlands. Design and placement of water bodies were found to affect their cooling effectiveness. HTC was improved by proximity to WSUD features, but shading and ventilation were also effective at improving thermal comfort. This study demonstrates that WSUD can be used to cool urban microclimates, while simultaneously achieving other environmental benefits, such as improved stream ecology and flood mitigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalTheoretical and Applied Climatology
Issue number1-2
Early online date5 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


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