The Grand Challengers Podcast Episode #9

From first flush and manholes to pendulums of stormwater, engineering and life

Guest: Ana Deletic

April 25th, 2023


“…Industry will tell you where their challenges are and you need to also guide them where they will be a little bit ahead of that…”

In the face of an unpredictable future, we are all called upon each and every day to think of out-of-the box ways to tackle challenges to our environment, wellbeing or how to park your car near your local drain without getting arrested.

My guest today is Professor Ana Deletic, the Executive Dean of Engineering at Queensland University of Technology, Australia (or QUT for short). Ana is perhaps the most prolific researcher in urban stormwater management across the world with a diverse portfolio across water quantity and quality, modelling and, most notably, nature-based solutions.

Today on the show, I reconnect with my former PhD supervisor as we retrace Ana’s journey along what she describes as an infamous pendulum from former Yugoslavia to Australia. We explore Ana’s impact in water sensitive urban design, good modelling practices, women in engineering and her incredible mentorship advice.


Ana Deletic is a professor in urban stormwater and Executive Dean in Engineering at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Brisbane, Australia, which she joined in 2017. Previously, she was Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) and Professor in the Water Research Centre, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of New South Wales, Sydney and the Associate Dean of Research and Founding Director of Monash Infrastructure Research Institute, Melbourne. Ana is an internationally engaged and respected researcher and has been researching in the field of urban water engineering for almost 30 years. She is perhaps the most published researcher in the world on the topic of stormwater management.

Ana obtained her PhD from the University of Aberdeen and is an Honorary Fellow of Engineers, Australia, a fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) and Editor of Water Research. In 2012, the Victorian State Government awarded her the Victoria Prize for Science and Innovation (Physical Sciences) for her lifelong achievements in stormwater research.

Ana has a diverse research portfolio on all things stormwater, ranging from urban stormwater pollution to nature-based solutions for a range of purposes. She delves not only into the technological aspects of engineered stormwater systems, but also the societal and other benefits that they brings to combating the impacts of climate change.

With a consultative, evidence-based approach, a feature of Ana’s leadership roles over the past decade has been her focus on bringing together multiple partners from industries, governments, and the university sector, to set-up and deliver large research programs. Ana also has significant experience in leading change and has been a passionate advocate and enabler for women in engineering and broader STEM.

Resources Related to the Episode

  • Disclaimer: We recorded this in Ana’s office and the chairs were rather lively and ricketty, so you may hear some additional background noise which hopefully will not detract from your enjoyment of the episode.
  • Terms for nature-based solutions: Ana uses these terms quite interchangeably, so here is a list of the different terms thrown around in the episode
    • Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) or “woosood”
    • Blue Green Systems
    • Green Blue Infrastructure
    • Green Infrastructure
    • Some papers on terminology:
      • Fletcher, T.D., Shuster, W., Hunt, W.F., Ashley, R., Butler, D., Arthur, S., Trowsdale, S., Barraud, S., Semadeni-Davies, A., Bertrand-Krajewski, J.L. and Mikkelsen, P.S., 2015. SUDS, LID, BMPs, WSUD and more–The evolution and application of terminology surrounding urban drainage. Urban water journal12(7), pp.525-542. [Link]
      • Ruangpan, L., Vojinovic, Z., Di Sabatino, S., Leo, L.S., Capobianco, V., Oen, A.M., McClain, M.E. and Lopez-Gunn, E., 2020. Nature-based solutions for hydro-meteorological risk reduction: a state-of-the-art review of the research area. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences20(1), pp.243-270. [Link]
      • Matsler, A.M., Meerow, S., Mell, I.C. and Pavao-Zuckerman, M.A., 2021. A ‘green’chameleon: Exploring the many disciplinary definitions, goals, and forms of “green infrastructure”. Landscape and Urban Planning214, p.104145. [Link]
  • List of collaborators that Ana mentions in the episode:
  • Ana’s “cover page” photo in Miljakovac (we are still locating that ‘cover page’) 😉
  • Research on the First Flush:
    • Ana’s 1998 paper: Deletic, A., 1998. The first flush load of urban surface runoff. Water research32(8), pp.2462-2470. [Link]
    • My first journal paper under Ana’s supervision: Bach, P.M., McCarthy, D.T. and Deletic, A., 2010. Redefining the stormwater first flush phenomenon. Water research44(8), pp.2487-2498. [Link]
  • Purchase your own 24-can crate of Coca Cola for when you make your own research bets 😉 [View on Amazon]
  • Ana’s 1997 Paper in Journal of Hydraulic Research: Deletic, A., Maksimovic, E. and Ivetic, M., 1997. Modelling of storm wash-off of suspended solids from impervious surfaces. Journal of Hydraulic Research35(1), pp.99-118. [Link]
  • The flood mitigation paper using rainwater harvesting:
    • Our integrated study modelling 85 years: Jamali, B., Bach, P.M. and Deletic, A., 2020. Rainwater harvesting for urban flood management–An integrated modelling framework. Water research171, p.115372. [Link]
  • Australia’s climate, some notes on the Millennium Drought:
  • Benefits of nature-based solutions on property values:
    • Polyakov, M., Fogarty, J., Zhang, F., Pandit, R. and Pannell, D.J., 2017. The value of restoring urban drains to living streams. Water Resources and Economics17, pp.42-55. [Link]
    • Gunawardena, A., Iftekhar, S. and Fogarty, J., 2020. Quantifying intangible benefits of water sensitive urban systems and practices: an overview of non-market valuation studies. Australasian Journal of Water Resources24(1), pp.46-59. [Link]
  • For the story of social science and adoption, refer to Episode #8 with Megan A. Farrelly
  • The Biofilter in Kfar-Saba in Israel [More Info] which Ana worked on with Yaron Zinger
  • More on the research on green walls, which Ana undertook with Veljko Prodanovic and other students [YouTube]
    • Look out for Veljko in a future episode!
    • Prodanovic, V., Hatt, B., McCarthy, D., Zhang, K. and Deletic, A., 2017. Green walls for greywater reuse: Understanding the role of media on pollutant removal. Ecological Engineering102, pp.625-635. [Link]
    • Prodanovic, V., McCarthy, D., Hatt, B. and Deletic, A., 2019. Designing green walls for greywater treatment: The role of plants and operational factors on nutrient removal. Ecological Engineering130, pp.184-195. [Link]
    • Prodanovic, V., Hatt, B., McCarthy, D. and Deletic, A., 2020. Green wall height and design optimisation for effective greywater pollution treatment and reuse. Journal of environmental management261, p.110173. [Link]
  • Some key works on Ana’s modelling research:
    • UrbanBEATS – Ana refers to the model that I started during my PhD and am working on now. You can visit the main website for more information on the UrbanBEATS Planning-Support System
    • DAnCE4Water: Rauch, W., Urich, C., Bach, P.M., Rogers, B.C., De Haan, F.J., Brown, R.R., Mair, M., McCarthy, D.T., Kleidorfer, M., Sitzenfrei, R. and Deletic, A., 2017. Modelling transitions in urban water systems. Water Research126, pp.501-514. [Link]
    • The fast flood model: Jamali, B., Bach, P.M., Cunningham, L. and Deletic, A., 2019. A Cellular Automata fast flood evaluation (CA‐ffé) model. Water Resources Research55(6), pp.4936-4953. [Link]
    • More recently: Wu, W., Jamali, B., Zhang, K., Marshall, L. and Deletic, A., 2023. Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) Spatial Prioritisation through Global Sensitivity Analysis for Effective Urban Pluvial Flood Mitigation. Water Research235, p.119888. [Link]
    • She refers to hydrodynamic models including TUFLOW, HEC-RAS and MIKE-FLOOD by the Danish Hydraulic Institute (DHI)
    • The paper on UrbanBEATS in identifying locations for nature-based solutions: Bach, P.M., Kuller, M., McCarthy, D.T. and Deletic, A., 2020. A spatial planning-support system for generating decentralised urban stormwater management schemes. Science of The Total Environment726, p.138282. [Link]
  • Reference from Episode #3 – Martijn Kuller refers to Ana Deletic in his journey
  • Modelling Uncertainties in Urban Drainage:
    • Deletic, A., Dotto, C.B.S., McCarthy, D.T., Kleidorfer, M., Freni, G., Mannina, G., Uhl, M., Henrichs, M., Fletcher, T.D., Rauch, W. and Bertrand-Krajewski, J.L., 2012. Assessing uncertainties in urban drainage models. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Parts A/B/C42, pp.3-10. [Link]
  • The “FAWB Guidelines” – Facility for Advancing Water Biofiltration [Link]
    • More recently, the Adoption Guidelines for Stormwater Biofiltration Systems [Link]
  • The Scientia Programme at UNSW** that Ana kickstarted
  • Background on The University of Aberdeen
  • The Victorian Prize for Science & Innovation in 2012, which Ana received for her work on stormwater and biofilters [YouTube]
  • One of Ana’s online seminars in her work on women in STEM [YouTube]
  • The ATAR score system for University entry in Australia [Link]
  • Some history on the conflict in former Yugoslavia:

Connect with Ana Deletic