The Grand Challengers Podcast Episode #20

Stormwater control measures, healthy waterways, battleships and karate at the riverside camp

Guest: Belinda Hatt

November 28th, 2023

Episode Teaser


“…when we urbanize an area, we turn the natural hydrological cycle, completely on its head..”

Urbanization alters the natural water cycle, resulting in greater amounts of water flowing into waterways. But what do the consequences look like and what solutions do we have to protect our environment?

My guest today is Belinda Hatt, a waterways and wetlands research specialist at Melbourne Water and the University of Melbourne. Belinda has actively engaged in protecting our natural waterways from both a research and practice role, understanding how we can better plan, design and implement stormwater control measures to counteract the effects of rapid urbanization on the health of stream networks.

On today’s episode, we reflect on Belinda’s journey through academia and practice, how her work on rain gardens has achieved significant adoption in Australia, and the road ahead for healthy waterways.


Belinda Hatt is an environmental scientist with over 20 years of experience in the urban water sector. She is the waterways and wetlands research specialist at Melbourne Water, Australia and researcher at the University of Melbourne’s School of Agriculture, Food and Ecosystem Sciences. Her interests are in vegetated water treatment systems, monitoring and treatment of stormwater and the application of stormwater harvesting to improve waterway health and urban liveability.

Belinda obtained her Bachelor in Environmental Sciences at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in 2001 and her PhD in “Filtration technologies for stormwater harvesting” in 2008 from Monash University. She was a lecturer at Monash University from 2007 to 2017 before leaving academia to work as a Senior Environmental Scientist at Jacobs from 2017 to 2019. Her present role leverages both her research and practice backgrounds to change current practices around stormwater management in a number of different ways even beyond the water sector.

Belinda is best known for her groundbreaking work on stormwater bioretention systems (or raingardens as they are also known), in particular, her contribution to the Adoption Guidelines for Stormwater Biofiltration Systems in Australia. Currently, she plays a strong role in the Melbourne Waterway Research-Practice Partnership between Melbourne Water and Melbourne University.

Resources Related to the Episode

  • Just for context, we recorded the episode back in April 2023 when I was in Australia
  • “Battleship”, the modern pomodoro technique with added accountability! We also refer to Ana Deletic, who has also been on the show. Check out Episode 9 with Ana.
  • Some papers on terminology for “Water Sensitive Urban Design” or as Belinda calls it, “Stormwater control measures”:
    • 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]
  • The impact of urbanization on waterways:
    • Some nice info from the US Geological Survey [Link]
    • The hydrological cycle in a National Geographic Article [Link]
    • One of Belinda’s early papers on the topic, especially water quality: Hatt, B.E., Fletcher, T.D., Walsh, C.J. and Taylor, S.L., 2004. The influence of urban density and drainage infrastructure on the concentrations and loads of pollutants in small streams. Environmental management34, pp.112-124. [Link]
  • “Dilution is the solution to pollution” and why it is not the solution
  • The Millennium Drought (officially 1996 to 2010):
  • Stormwater harvesting and constructed wetlands:
    • Hatt, B.E., Deletic, A. and Fletcher, T.D., 2006. Integrated treatment and recycling of stormwater: a review of Australian practice. Journal of environmental management79(1), pp.102-113. [Link]
    • Melbourne Water has a stormwater wetland design guide that gives some insights into how these systems are designed [Link]
  • Biofiltration systems/Raingardens:
    • What is a raingarden/biofiltration system? [Melbourne Water]
    • The story of the 10,000 raingarden project [Link]
  • Stormwater quality management in Melbourne today is written in the Victorian Planning Provisions stormwater Clause 56 [Link] and its 2018 amendment VC154 [Link], requiring all types of developments that trigger the state planning framework to manage stormwater.
    • The Victorian Environment Protection Authority (VicEPA) also released a stormwater management guidance document in 2021 that is more stringent than the current Best Practice Environmental Management planning provisions, but its implementation is currently voluntary [More Info]
  • Some literature on stormwater harvesting:
    • The Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Water Sensitive Cities published a blueprint for stormwater harvesting back in 2013 [Link]
    • Melbourne Water’s page on stormwater harvesting [Link]
  • A collection of Belinda’s key papers on stormwater biofiltration systems (a.k.a. raingardens):
    • Hatt, B.E., Siriwardene, N., Deletic, A. and Fletcher, T.D., 2006. Filter media for stormwater treatment and recycling: the influence of hydraulic properties of flow on pollutant removal. Water Science and Technology54(6-7), pp.263-271. [Link]
    • Hatt, B.E., Fletcher, T.D. and Deletic, A., 2007. Treatment performance of gravel filter media: Implications for design and application of stormwater infiltration systems. Water research41(12), pp.2513-2524. [Link]
    • Hatt, B.E., Fletcher, T.D. and Deletic, A., 2008. Hydraulic and pollutant removal performance of fine media stormwater filtration systems. Environmental science & technology42(7), pp.2535-2541. [Link]
    • Hatt, B.E., Fletcher, T.D. and Deletic, A., 2009. Hydrologic and pollutant removal performance of stormwater biofiltration systems at the field scale. Journal of Hydrology365(3-4), pp.310-321. [Link]
    • Hatt, B.E., Fletcher, T.D. and Deletic, A., 2009. Pollutant removal performance of field-scale stormwater biofiltration systems. Water science and technology59(8), pp.1567-1576. [Link]
    • Hatt, B.E., Steinel, A., Deletic, A. and Fletcher, T.D., 2011. Retention of heavy metals by stormwater filtration systems: Breakthrough analysis. Water Science and Technology64(9), pp.1913-1919. [Link]
  • The Adoption Guidelines for Stormwater Biofiltration Systems [Link]
  • Jacobs Engineering Consultancy [Official Website]
  • Melbourne Water’s Healthy Waterways Strategy
  • All about Karate
    • What is Karate?
    • How to teach yourself Karate? [Link]
  • In case you’re interested more in Belinda’s work, here’s another interview she did on an episode of Ideanthro [Link]

Connect with Belinda Hatt