Adelaidean - News from the University of Adelaide The University of Adelaide Australia
March 2007 Issue
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Keith's urban master plan

 Urban Management

Stormwater and wetlands could be important keys to solving Adelaide's water crisis, according to the first Masters student to graduate from the University of Adelaide's Urban Habitat Management program.

Keith Smith, an ecologist with the Natural Resources Management Board at Mt Lofty, is the first student to complete all the stages of the newest postgraduate program in the Faculty of Sciences. He graduated with his Masters last December.

Mr Smith said the program offered a good mix of both practical and theory and brought together several disciplines, with a major focus on flora and fauna as well as water issues.

His thesis explored the change in Adelaide's urban vegetation in the past 10 years and the importance of wetlands.

"Adelaide's stormwater and wetlands management is among the most progressive in the country," he said.

"Wetlands provide important habitats for many plant and animal species and they also help manage our flood risk in urban areas in times of heavy rain. Wetlands provide us with an opportunity to capture and cleanse stormwater that would otherwise be wasted," he said.

"Because they are locally based, you can capture and treat the water locally which is less expensive than having it treated elsewhere and pumped over long distances."

Mr Smith said government, industry, councils, schools and community groups were starting to work together to harvest and recycle Adelaide's water.

"Most years, Adelaide has a relatively good supply of water, although we are seeing some major pressures with the current drought and we need to be innovative about where we get our water from and how we use it. There are many opportunities for stormwater recycling schemes and the development of more wetlands."

The Masters graduate said it was inevitable that Adelaide's urban vegetation would undergo a transformation in future years.

"Many of our older trees are severely stressed by the effects of the current drought and while we are already noticing some tree deaths, many more could die as a result of this stress in the future. What we plant in their place will determine the fabric of Adelaide in the years to come.

"In the past decade our long-term goal to 'green' the city has resulted in a substantial increase in woodland areas at the expense of grasslands.

"It has been a good thing on the whole but grasslands are important habitats in their own right. They support different birds and reptiles to those found in more densely vegetated areas.

Mr Smith said Adelaide residents were already starting to plant more native species in their gardens and replace grass with pervious surfaces such as gravel.

"There is a growing realisation in Australia and around the world that we have to manage our urban environments better. After all, more than two thirds of Australia's population already lives in our five largest cities and the urban environment will continue to impact significantly on our quality of life into the future."

Dr Sandra Taylor from the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences and Dr Chris Daniels from UniSA supervised Mr Smith's thesis.

Story by Candy Gibson

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Masters graduate Keith Smith.  Wetlands provide important habitats for plant and animal species.
Photo courtesy of Keith Smith

Masters graduate Keith Smith. Wetlands provide important habitats for plant and animal species.
Photo courtesy of Keith Smith

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