Urban Planning that Sustains Water (UPSW)


UPSW is designed to allow the user to assess the impacts of urban development scenarios on key attributes such as water and sediment quality, ecosystem health and cultural & recreational values.                                         


Urban Planning that Sustains Waterbodies (UPSW) is a pilot spatial DSS, the model building and testing came to completion in December 2012.  The DSS was developed by NIWA in collaboration with Cawthon Institute and Tipa & Associates as a system that was able to incorporate measures of environmental, social, economic and cultural impacts into a sustainability index that allowed planners to better consider the impacts that urban development would have on its surrounding area.                                                                  

The pilot DSS consists of three aspects; firstly it incorporates and identifies indicators of environmental, economic and social wellbeing; secondly a number of set methods are used in order to make predictions surrounding the costing of urban development and stormwater management scenarios. The third step applies three principal methods to make predictions for each Planning unit (PLU);

  • The Catchment Contaminant Annual Loads Model (C-CALM)
  • A stream management costing model
  • A stormwater treatment costing model.

This series of methods (*see figure*) collated from both existing standalone applications as well as those developed with specific purpose in the sDSS are incorporated into the model. These include a model for estimating the cost of catchment-scale stormwater management, a stream ecosystem health model and a model with the ability of predicting social wellbeing indicators from related environmental attributes.

The pilot DSS is developed in MS Excel and was set up to broadly focus on several ‘planning units’ within a specific study area. The initial inputs into the model are attributes of baseline urban state and urban development options. The outputs from the model are focused around environmental, social and economic wellbeing for each ‘reporting unit’ in the study area. Within the model there are two types of reporting unit the first is single stream reporting unit (SRU) and the second being estuary reporting units (ERU), generally a single planning unit corresponds to a single stream catchment area and is linked to a SRU.

UPSW POC framework

Proof-of-Concept version of the DSS showing worksheets (rectangular boxes) and relationships between them


The inputs of urban state and urban development are utilised by a series of environmental models which predict changes in water and sediment quality as well as other indicators of estuarine and waterway health. From these results the models also are used to estimate the cost of stormwater and stream management.

The models involved in this process include; a modified version of the Catchment Contaminant Annual Loads Model (C-CALM), A Bayesian Belief Network (BBN) and a modified version of the Urban Stormwater Contaminants (USC).   

Latest Version 0.1
State of Development Released and updated

Development Contact


Main Developers

  • National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)


Outcome Areas Economic, Environmental, Social, Cultural
Management Domains Freshwater, Ecosystem Services, Coastal, Urban Systems
Subdomains Water Quality, Ecosystem/Habitat
Intended End Users
  • Researcher
  • Regional Council Scientist
Spatial Extents Local (i.e. Catchment or District)
Spatial Dimensions 2D
Temporal Resolutions Years
Temporal Extents Decades
Steady State or Dynamic Steady State
Level of Integration Economic, Environmental, Social, Cultural

Input & Output Data

Key Input Data Land Use effectiveness of stormwater treatment, vehicle numbers, contaminant sources, stream characteristics
Input Data Formats XLS(X)
Output Data Formats XLS(S)


Open/Closed Source Closed Source
Licence Type Unknown

User Information

Operating Systems MS Windows
Software Needed Excel
User Interface Graphical desktop
Ease of Use Easy
Use in Policy Process Review (Issue Identification), Plan (Policy Formulation)

See Report on "Building and Testing the SDSS"

Technical Considerations

Analytical Techniques Input/output
Model Structure

UPSW framework3

Keywords stormwater, urban water management, water quality, contaminants, ecosystem, habitat, indicators, BBN, C-CLAM, USC
Linkages to other Models

Urban Planning that Sustains Waterbodies (UPSW): Project Page -  https://www.niwa.co.nz/freshwater-and-estuaries/stormwater-management/urban-impacts

 - Contains background and supporting research reports on modelling

NZ Centre for Sustainable Cities - http://sustainablecities.org.nz/resilient-urban-futures/urban-water-bodies/

 - Additional publications list on urban water management

Key References

See UPSW - Project Page

Jennifer Gadd and Richard Storey (2012): Urban Planning that Sustains Waterbodies: Development of a Bayesian Belief Network for Stream Ecosystem Health. NIWA Client Report No: AKL-2012-037, Prepared under contract C01X0908 funded by the Ministry for Science and Innovation

Associated Case Studies

UPSW - Southern Rural-Urban Boundary Auckland City

The UPSW DSS was developed and trialled as a part of the Auckland Councils (AC) draft unitary plan in order to assess the potential effects of a range of future urban development scenarios in the southern rural urban boundary of Auckland as well as South-eastern Manukau Harbour.


Other Key Case Studies

Urban Development and the NPS-FM: Lucas Creek Catchment Case Study (Moores, J. et al., 2016). NIWA Client Report No AKL2015-028. Prepared for Ministry of Primary Industries.