There are plenty of challenges linked to climate change that cities and towns across the world have to face. These include population growth, environmental degradation, limited resources, and evolving societal expectations and standards. These challenges have significant consequences for almost every aspect of urban water systems.

While these systems have worked well for many years, it’s now widely recognised that the traditional water system that’s based on large-scale centralised infrastructure, needs to change so that changing and growing needs can be met. Governments, private industry and scientists are exploring new ways to plan, design and manage urban water systems. The concept of a Water Sensitive City – which Monash University has innovated - has emerged across science, policy and practice as a solution.

This unit includes insights from the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities on water sensitive planning and design principles that can help cities make the transition towards future water systems that are sustainable, productive and resilient. The Monash Sustainable Development Institute is coordinating and delivering the Urban Futures unit on behalf of the International Water Centre (IWC).


This module explores a new concept for how the scientific study of the movement, distribution and quality of water interacts with urban landscape in a way that supports liveable, sustainable, productive and resilient cities. This module aims to provide students with an interdisciplinary understanding of the connection between society, technology and urban design and how these three areas come together to ensure water security, efficiency, waterway health, flood mitigation, public health and amenity. Students will critically explore the underlying principles of a Water Sensitive City and examine the various social and technological pathways that allow for its delivery.


  • Understand current problems and future drivers for the scientific study of the movement, distribution and quality of water in cities and appreciate new approaches to water sensitive cities
  • Discover the foundations and connections between the key elements of a water sensitive city
  • Understand the potential and limitations of green infrastructure in a Water Sensitive City
  • Identify and select water sensitive components that best fit biophysical conditions across different locations
  • Demonstrate knowledge on how urban planning and structure can influence the climate resilience of cities
  • Apply water sensitive urban planning and design principles to enhance cities’ ecosystem services
  • Apply frameworks to institutions and understand constraints and opportunities for institutional change
  • Understand how social and technological change can be facilitated through different forms of governance
  • Identify and select social and technological strategies that can influence pathways towards a Water Sensitive City

For more information, visit the unit page.