SUDS: success story or soap opera?

SUDS: Success story or soap opera?

Greenbelt leads new debate on sustainable drainage

Greenbelt has welcomed a new survey that signals Scotland leading the way in implementation of sustainable drainage systems (SUDS) ­– but the premier property and land management company is calling for more to be done to promote the use of such innovative solutions.

Flooding threatens an estimated 170,000 residential and commercial properties in Scotland, with a potential annual economic cost of around £31.5 million. This month alone the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) warned of flooding in parts of Aberdeenshire and Moray, while alerts were put in place across Caithness and Sutherland, Orkney and Tayside.

When flooding directly affects our own homes, the importance of having SUDS is brought suddenly and sharply into focus.

Essentially, the systems work by replicating natural land features, diverting surface water via wetlands, ponds, swales and basins. They also encompass a number of storm water management solutions, such as catchment, infiltration, evaporation, attenuation, surface storage and source run-off.

The SUDS in Scotland: Experience and Opportunity survey was carried out by Hydro International, in association with CIWEM and British Water, for the Engineering Nature’s Way knowledge-sharing website. Its aim was to assess whether industry professionals believe Scotland has effectively delivered SUDS and identify lessons learned in the run-up to the implementation of new national standards for SUDS in England and Wales next year.

Its findings showed most respondents believed SUDS were successful in Scotland, aided by the country’s legislative drivers. However, many respondents also expressed their frustration that authorities have been slow to adopt the systems. Most also pointed out inadequate funding for SUDS adoption and maintenance in Scotland.

Key Findings

The 151 survey participants included water company professionals, engineers, developers and environment agency workers.

96.8% of the survey respondents believe Scotland has successfully implemented SUDS since the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act (WEWS) of 2003

2.4% believe it has been completely successful

84.7% agree legislative drivers have helped Scotland make more effective progress than England and Wales

67.1% believe regulation and guidance insufficiently clear for adoption of SUDS in Scotland

59.8% believe regulation and guidance insufficiently clear for maintenance of SUDS in Scotland

77.8% feel there is inadequate funding for both adoption and maintenance of SUDS in Scotland

l48% are satisfied current regulation and guidance give practitioners freedom to specify from a full toolbox of both “natural” and manufactured /proprietary SUDS features

65% of those with relevant experience believed the policy of SEPA to classify proprietary systems as a level of treatment only in “exceptional circumstances” was a barrier to the design of effective SUDS

Alex Middleton, Chief Executive of Greenbelt, which manages more than 100 SUDS nationwide, commented: “While it’s satisfying to see Scotland acknowledged for its success in implementing SUDS, the concerns about the number of features being adopted and maintained, and the perceived lack of adequate funding, has major implications on both sides of the border and must be addressed.”

Announcing a drive by Greenbelt to stimulate much-needed debate about the future of SUDS, Middleton added: “It’s imperative that all those involved in the sector seek a more coherent future for these systems. This will mean addressing some serious questions. For example, is the policy of SEPA to classify proprietary systems as a level of treatment only in ‘exceptional circumstances’ really a barrier to the design of effective SUDS – and can this be changed?

“We should also be looking at the further development of industry tools to assist with the design and costing of both proprietary and natural SUDS, something Greenbelt has been pioneering. Finally, we might ask how more authorities can be persuaded to increase use and funding for SUDS. All of these matters will directly or indirectly affect not only those involved in development and land management and ownership, but business premises and individual home owners.”

Have Your Say on SUDS!

Greenbelt is inviting all those interested in the future of SUDS to email their thoughts, questions and suggestions to help build a forum for informed discussion and debate. The email address is: