Student profile

Student Profile: Thivanka Dharmasena


17 June 2023

Resilience of Water Sensitive Design Assets in Urban Environments Against Urban Flooding and Climate Change

Kia Ora!

I am a 3rd year PhD student at the University of Auckland with a focus on urban flood resilience. My engagement towards this field first started when I graduated from Deakin University (Australia) with my Bachelor’s Degree and worked as a Research Assistant in various projects as a stormwater modeller.

I quickly grew a keen interest towards urban flood mitigation and water sensitive design assets. Being from Sri Lanka, and having lived in many countries since then, I have personally seen the devastating impacts of urban flooding on human lives, and how the mismanagement of stormwater during flood events could lead to millions of dollars in asset damage and even the loss of human lives.

It’s this personal experience, coupled with my passion towards stormwater modelling that made me realise that I could make a significant contribution towards the research gaps in this field. Having a knack for research therefore encouraged me to pursue my further education at University of Auckland.

My Project

Throughout history, urbanization & climate change have been identified as two of the biggest factors that accentuate the impacts of urban flooding. A changing climate can lead to more frequent and severe storm events. Coupled with urbanization and the subsequent increase in size of impervious areas, it is certain that problems associated with flooding will only worsen into the future.

Water Sensitive Design assets (bioretention basins, rain gardens, green roofs and permeable pavements) are increasingly being integrated into cities and urban environments.  Such engineered green-infrastructure has been proven to not only improve the visual aesthetics of previously “grey” urban cities, but also to recover a portion of stormwater catchment storage capacity previously lost to urbanization.

The strengths of these assets lie in being “safe-to-fail” instead of “failsafe”, as they enhance a catchments ability resist urban flooding for longer and recover faster to the business-as-usual scenario.

Next Steps

My research will focus on developing a fair metric to quantify the resilience of stormwater assets in urban environments that addresses these strengths. Such a metric will be crucial in identifying critical parameters that influence the resilience of water sensitive design assets in a new light. More informed engineering decisions can be made, and policies can be improved to strengthen our battle against urban flooding in the current climate, and into the future.

This research topic has been both challenging and enjoyable as I am able to connect myself with my passion, as well as having a sense of accomplishment towards the betterment of the natural environment. I have had the privilege of working under the supervision of Asaad Shamseldin & Conrad Zorn. Their expertise in the field and encouragement has made this experience well worth it!

Join our newsletter

And get the latest news.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Scroll to Top