Shows an example of a rain garden in a medium density urban area

We need to design our public spaces differently to cope with the impacts of climate change, the demands of a growing population and to meet our commitment to being a water-sensitive city. Embedding water management infrastructure in public space can mitigate the impacts of flooding, help irrigate spaces to keep them green and withstand greater use, and can provide the attraction of water features for park amenity, play and respite from heat.

Water is a key feature of Port Phillip, with Port Phillip Bay, Albert Park lake, the Elwood Canal and Yarra River all playing an important part in creating the identity of the City and how we use our public spaces. This also means a significant part of our city is vulnerable to rising seas and intense storms, increasing the risk of flooding and erosion of our foreshore. Two thirds of our City is made up of hard surfaces which further contributes to flooding, increased heat, and more pollution, nutrients and sediments being washed into the Bay.


Managing flooding in the city has traditionally been through a drainage system of underground pits and pipes, however this system does not cater well for intense storms. Public spaces can be designed to act like a sponge during a severe storm event, accommodating additional water to help minimise flood impacts in surrounding areas.


Irrigation of parks is becoming more expensive with lower rainfall, rising temperatures and increased use from a growing population. We know people value high amenity green spaces, however water is scarce and Council has committed to reducing potable water use. Use of alternative water sources, through water harvesting and water reuse, and creating water-efficient public space environments will be part of the solution. We will also need to make choices about which spaces we keep well-watered and green, to achieve sustainable water use whilst responding to community needs.

Water features

Incorporating water features in public space (including opportunities for water play) can contribute to a sense of tranquillity or playfulness, and can help to define the identity of a space. Water can also contribute valuable habitat, support biodiversity and have a cooling effect on spaces – see the ‘Public spaces for a cooler, greener city’ snapshot for further information.

What Council is already doing

  • Investing in irrigation infrastructure to reduce water use in open space.
  • Increasing permeability of public spaces by removing unnecessary hard surfaces.
  • Installing raingardens in our streets and parks to reduce pollution and sediments entering the Bay.
  • Harvesting stormwater to irrigate our parks – e.g. Alma Park.
  • Elster Creek Action Plan - working with our partners to reduce flooding in Elwood, including through the way public spaces are designed.


Ways we can use public space to improve water quality and reduce impacts of flooding:

  • Water harvesting projects can help irrigate public spaces without using potable water.
  • Raingardens capture and clean stormwater, are self-watering and enhance the amenity of our street spaces.
  • Designing public spaces to reduce the impacts of flooding - parks, sports fields and roads that retain water during severe storms.
  • Using surface water to cool the city and celebrate water - i.e. through providing opportunities for water play.

Thought prompters

  • How should we balance the desire for green parks and reduce our water use?
  • Would you be prepared for Council to spend more on alternative water sources, such as water harvesting, to keep our parks green?
  • Do you have other ideas?

Return to Have Your Say on the Public Space Strategy main page.