Tony Wong
Chief Executive of the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities, Australia


Professor Tony Wong is Chief Executive of the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities, an Australian Government Initiative with research hubs in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Singapore. He is internationally recognised for his research and practice in sustainable urban water management, particularly in water sensitive urban design (WSUD). He received the prestigious Engineers Australia Sir John Holland Award as Australia’s 2010 Civil Engineer of the Year, and was commended for defining “a new paradigm for design of urban environments that blends creativity with technical and scientific rigour”.

Over the past 30 years, Professor Wong has pioneered a program of work—the water sensitive cities approach—that uses a unique socio-technical approach to concurrently address the social, environmental and economic challenges of traditional urban water management. This approach is the culmination of Professor Wong’s significant achievements in research and development across technology, urban design and policy. These advances are not only significant, but have consistently reflected his foresight and creativity in generating new directions and potential solutions that push through barriers to better urban water management. His early work on WSUD is now globally diffused, and his subsequent reimagining of WSUD within the water sensitive cities approach has been mainstreamed across Australia and increasingly, among developing nations.

Professor Wong made his outstanding impact via three major avenues. He made impactful individual contributions, and identified the research questions needed to truly address the complex problems of increasingly dense global cities affected by a changing climate. By leading the synthesis and translation of new research, he demonstrably bridged the distance between new knowledge and practice. And by directly advising and influencing both decision makers and policies, he is impacting the practices and legislative context surrounding urban water management. The uptake of WSUD is a key conduit for exerting this positive, transformative influence on the nature of cities and the health and wellbeing of their citizens.

Professor Wong advanced new understandings of the relationship between the societal and biophysical dimensions of water security and city waterscapes—enabling solutions that are underpinned by creative design, and technical and scientific rigour for delivering sustainable, resilient and liveable cities. His influence, persistence and visionary leadership in urban water management takes tangible shape in the transformations of multiple global cities, and in ground breaking water sensitive initiatives that leverage water to change the lives of the millions of people who live in urban slums.

Professor Wong’s life’s work has been directed at improving community access to such basic rights—from the research and development of the CDS gross pollutant trap, to pioneering the adaptation of wetland and biofiltration technologies to urban design, to the development of software tools and reforming policies to create the environment for successful uptake. Collectively, these efforts are having, and will continue to have, profound impacts in enabling developing cities to attain the urban design, urban water system and associated institutions and governance structure to ‘leapfrog’ traditional approaches towards more sustainable, resilient and liveability urban communities.