Urbanization degrades the hydrology and water quality of waterways. Changes to flow regimes include increased frequency of surface runoff, increased peak flows and an increase in total runoff. At the same time, water use in many cities is approaching, and in some cases exceeding, sustainable limits. Stormwater harvesting has the potential to mitigate a number of these detrimental impacts. However, excessive harvesting of stormwater could also be detrimental to stream health. Therefore, a study was undertaken to test whether typical stormwater harvesting scenarios could meet the dual objectives of (i) supplying urban water requirements, and (ii) restoring the flow regime as close as possible to ‘natural’ (pre-developed). Melbourne and Brisbane, which have different climates, were used along with three land use scenarios (low, medium and high density). Modelling was undertaken for a range of flow and water quality indicators. The results show that using these typical harvesting scenarios helped to bring flow and water quality back towards their pre-developed levels. In some cases, however, harvesting resulted in an over-extraction of flow, demonstrating the need for optimizing the harvesting strategy to meet both supply and environmental flow objectives. The results show that urban stormwater harvesting is a potential strategy for achieving both water conservation and environmental flows.

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