Sustainable Drainage Systems

When Alison first used this term I must have looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Of course, I immediately started to think about small gardens with a sprinkling system imitating natural rain, but that was just the techie in me I guess. As I was at the time in a social marketing class, I looked into this and wrote my assessment on the subject, or more specifically the implementation of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) in the urban areas of Brighton and Hove.

What is SuDS?

Have you noticed that when it rains, the water builds up on pavements and in your garden? When all the water flows off the roofs, and have limited green space to travel to it will build up in certain areas. Sometimes the overflowing gardens will become so flooded that the water travels into the streets, and as they are covered in pavement the water will build up and create puddles and in worst case lead to flooding.

Some of the different types of SuDS include water gardens, soakaways, permeable pavements and green roofs (BHLDBP, 2014). A combination of different techniques where space is limited, such as green roofs and rain gardens, proves to be the most effective (Kimpton, Grant and Magklara, 2015).

Here is an illustration of a Rain Barrel and a Rain Garden:


Home Rain Garden Illustration

Picture 1: City of Columbus Website


How can they benefit you?

Flooding causes contaminated water and therefore acts as a health risk if you come into contact with it (Public Health England, 2014). By implementing SuDS in your private residence you are actively fighting against flooding which can lead to contaminated drinking water, which in turn can make you sick. You are also minimising the risk of severe types of flooding where the water surrounding you can be so full of bacteria that even coming into contact with it will be a threat to your health.

If you install a rain barrel that collects all the water from the gutters you stop the rain from puddling up in your yard, which may damage the lawn of flowerbeds, or stop it from flowing into the streets where flooding can happen. The added benefit of this is that the rainwater can be used for the sunny days when your flowers need a bit more hydration, saving water that would otherwise be coming out of your hose. A rain garden is also a neat little way to have a nice flowerbed in your garden that serves another purpose than just a place to plant flowers. This type of SuDS is also a way of filtering water before it runs into the drainage systems in the streets or into local lakes.

How can they benefit the society:

The cost of the UK winter floods in 2015 reached £5bn, and left many uninsured families and businesses in ruins (Taylor, Goodley and Syal, 2015), and about 5,2 million properties are at risk during a flood (Bennett and Hartwell-Naguib, 2014). Imagine what these huge sums could have been spent on in the community? Not only does flooding cause a lot of damage, but imagine if a fire erupted? Or someone needed urgent medical care? Flooding will serve as a hindrance for police cars, ambulances and fire trucks, and detours due to flooding will cost them valuable minutes in order to save a house or a life.

A water garden in private residences can help retain the rainwater as well as filtrate out toxins before it runs back into the sewers and into the lakes, rivers and drinking waters (Kimpton and Grant, 2015). This lack of filtration means that the lakes you and your neighbour’s kids swim in during the hot days of summer can pose as a health risk for them because the toxic build up. This toxic also poisons the local fauna, which might have an effect on you in the end trough the food chain. Plankton gets poisoned, which again poisons small fish, which poisons larger fish that gets captured and eaten by you or others.

How can they benefit the environment:

If you think about it, the environment does not produce concrete streets and urban areas on their own. Therefore it needs help when it rains as it no longer can soak up all the water and filtrate it for itself. SuDS mimic the natural drainage systems and filters out the toxins before they are able to poison our lakes and drinking water. A severe flood might also damage buildings that contain toxic materials (paints, pesticides, gasoline, etc..), release them into the environment, and cause a lot of damage (Rubin, 2016).

Despite this, I am also going to have to point out that natural flooding is part of the ecosystem, and the problem is often mostly related to urban areas. There is also some positive outcomes, especially for farmers, where the flooding distributes river sediments that help nourish the soil. So all in all, natural flooding is good, but flooding in urban areas are bad for you, the society and the environment. So help Mother Nature out and look into rain barrels and rain gardens, she’ll probably thank you for keeping the lakes clean and your food edible.

20150915_161013-1Ingrid Berg is a Norwegian person. She loves superheroes, therefore she decided to study social marketing to help save the world. As an avid tech geek she loves to look at how technology is used and how it can be used in the everyday life.

Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn with her.


Bennett, O. and Hartwell-Naguib, S. (2014). Flood defence spending in England. London: House of Commons.

Brighton & Lewes Downs Biosphere Project, (2014). Biosphere Management Strategy. Brighton

Kimpton, B., Grant, G. and Magklara, M. (2015). Portslade, West Sussex Urban Sustainable Drainage System (SuDS) Feasibility Study Report for Brighton & Hove City Council. Brighton.

Public Health England, (2014). Flooding: questions and answers about health. London: The Stationery Office Limited.

Rubin, K. (2016). Environmental Effects of Floods. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 May 2016].



Top Photo: Alex Krivec

Picture 1: The city of Columbus website 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s