About the AWRCoE Knowledge Hub Research Projects List of Publications Corporate Publications

Key Research from the AWRCoE

In June 2010, after consultation with utility, private enterprise, government and research sectors nationally, the Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence released its Strategic Research Plan (SRP). The plan , reviewed in 2012 and 2013, guided the Centre’s investment in an industry relevant research program. The plan provided an overview of water recycling in Australia and overseas, identified a series of research needs.

Developed by the Research Advisory Committee, the plan builds on the Centre’s research themes identified in Discussion Papers released in March 2010, as well as input gained during national workshops with industry and research organisations.

The plan established four key industry relevant research goals to target research outcomes:

Goal 1: The social/economic/environmental value of water recycling is demonstrated and enhanced;

Goal 2: A national validation framework for water recycling is established;

Goal 3: Reclaimed water is seen as an acceptable ‘alternative water’ for augmenting drinking water supplies;

Goal 4: A national knowledge, training and education program for water recycling is established.

The Plan reviewed the status of water recycling development overseas and in Australia, recognised the challenges associated with the continuing development of water recycling, and outlined how the Centre’s research themes and goals will guided the investment portfolio to meet these challenges.



Project name Lead organisation Project leader Investment Brief overview
An inline sensor for recycled water cross-connections CSIRO Land and Water Flagship Dr Tim Muster Confidence that separation between potable (drinking) and non-potable water is maintained is an important part of safeguarding public health. Laboratory tests found an operational prototype, using UV fluorescence, with a component cost of less than AU$200, could detect less than 3% recycled water in potable water. A test rig pairing a fluorescence sensor with an electrical conductivity sensor was found to work effectively in two field trials on varying water quality conducted at Yarra Valley Water and Western Water. Final Report
Building industry capacity to make investment decisions with recycled water University of Technology Sydney (UTS), represented by the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) Prof Cynthia Mitchell A knowledge base, tools and guides for planners, investors and decision makers considering water recycling has been established following the review of eight Australian water recycling schemes (including residential, industrial and irrigation schemes) from an economic, operational, regulatory and environmental perspective. Analysis of the case studies, in a mix of suburban and regional locations highlights why context matters in every situation, and how the practical assessment of success often goes beyond financial measures of risks, costs and benefits. Web Site
$1 997 724
Ceramic membrane and ozonation demonstration Victoria University Prof Mikel Duke An economic cost comparison between ceramic and polymer membrane recycled water plants has found the flow rate performance and long life of ceramic membranes make them cheaper to operate than polymer membrane systems. The cost analysis compared two treatment systems using results from a trial at Melbourne Water’s Eastern Treatment Plant. This project demonstrated that the benefits of ceramic membranes, such as high integrity, long-life and chemical robustness may result in longer-term economic benefits to water utilities and recycled water plant operators. Final Report
$1 279 026
Economic viability of recycled water schemes Marsden Jacob & Associates Mr Phil Pickering An economic framework was developed to assess non-potable recycled water schemes, including residential, industrial, municipal and agricultural schemes. The research included a choice modelling study of Sydney households to estimate the economic value they place on the indirect benefits of recycled water. An easy-to-use Recycled Water Economic Assessment Tool was developed to apply the framework and applied by regional councils to asses managed aquifer recharge schemes in the Northern Territory, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Final Report
$1 436 310
Green chemicals to remove biofilm and preserve membranes The University of Queensland – Advanced Water Management Centre Prof Zhiguo Yuan This project assessed the effectiveness of using Free Nitrous Acid (FNA) as a low-cost alternative for managing bio-fouling of reverse osmosis membranes (RO). A pilot plant demonstrated that FNA-based cleaning substantially improved the permeability of the membranes and reduced the differential pressure drop. In addition, the trial found that no significant microbial growth occurred when FNA was used as a preservation solution. Final Report
$1 301 247
Increased use of recycled water for irrigation South Australian R&D Institute (SARDI) Prof Jim Cox Using recycled wastewater for irrigation as a climate resilient supply option also has environmental and economic benefits. Sometimes more saline than traditional water sources, this project identified ways to improve the flushing action of rainfall and pinpoint salt sensitive growth stages in grape and almond crops in South Australia. Studies in the McLaren Vale vineyard found that changes in soil preparation practices can manage salinity while research on almonds in the Northern Adelaide Plains found that the best time to supplement recycled water with non-saline water was pre-harvest. Final Report
$1 409 082
Managed aquifer recharge and recycling options CSIRO Land and Water Flagship Dr Joanne Vanderzalm This project demonstrated that Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) schemes using recycled water are technically and economically feasible and identified solutions to soil clogging and groundwater quality. A guide to better manage aquifer recharge systems, based on case study lessons and economic benefit/cost analysis on MAR operations in five locations, in Alice Springs, Adelaide and Werribee and two in Perth, was produced. Favourable benefit-to-cost ratios were assessed in five of the six cases, often resulting from the avoided costs associated with other supply options. Final Report
$1 937 280
Micropollutants, mixtures and transformation products The University of Queensland – National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology (ENTOX), Curtin University Prof Beate Escher, Prof Jeff Charrois This project examined bio-analytical tools to assess chemical risk of micropollutants in recycled water (such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals) by looking at effects as a sum parameter rather than measuring individual chemicals. Compounds with high potential to form toxic transformation products were identified through a rigorous literature review and experimental testing, allowing for more cost efficient and targeted bio-analytical assessment tools to be developed and used by regulators, industry and utilities to help ensure water quality. Final Report
$1 147 064
Nanotechnology for phosphorous recovery from effluent CSIRO Land and Water Flagship Dr Tim Muster This project examined the recovery of phosphorus from wastewater for use as a sustainable agricultural resource. Laboratory trials found that nanoclay hybrid materials were effective in removing phosphorus from wastewaters. Although economically viable in the United States, the benefits and risks of using p-absorbent technologies against existing wastewater treatment technologies was found not to be economically attractive for use as an additive by the fertiliser industry in Australia at this time. Final Report
$747 769
Optimal technology integration for treatment systems The University of Queensland – Advanced Water Management Centre Dr Shihu Hu After successfully cultivating a large-scale Anammox biomass in Australian conditions, the project team successfully demonstrated two novel carbon recovery processes – the Anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR) process and the High Rate Activated Sludge (HRAS) process, which can respectively recover up to 90% and 80% of carbon from sewage as biogas. As conventional nitrogen removal processes require a significant carbon supply two new nitrogen removal concepts (side-stream and main-stream Anammox processes) were trialled at pilot scale and found to remove the majority of nitrogen, without the need for carbon input, therefore maximising bioenergy recovery. Final Report
$3 036 802
Pasteurisation and energy recovery Victoria University Dr Peter Sanciolo Pasteurisation, widely used in the United States to treat water, was trialled in Australia at Melbourne Water’s Eastern Treatment Plant site to assess its effectiveness as a cost-effective, low-energy alternative to conventional wastewater disinfection. Traditionally used to disinfect milk and other food products, the trial confirmed the effectiveness of pasteurisation as a disinfection process and found that variations of the feedwater parameters such as turbidity and pH had little effect on the performance targets that measure a treatment technology’s effectiveness. Final Report
$1 177 290
Recycled water for heavy industry and to prevent seawater intrusion CSIRO Land and Water Flagship Dr Don McFarlane Many industries in Kwinana’s heavy industry precinct near Perth rely on groundwater supplies that are becoming less secure as demand continues to grow. This project concluded that recharging aquifers with recycled treated wastewater was a cost-effective option for augmenting non-potable water supplies. In addition the research found that Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) has benefits for provision of irrigation water to nearby areas and replenishing nearby wetlands, while groundwater modelling demonstrated that modest additions of water can reverse coastal zone salt water intrusion by almost a kilometre. Final Report
$1 106 796
Resource recovery opportunities Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) Professor John Burgess An investor’s perspective was taken to overcome barriers Australia’s water sector is experiencing in optimising resource recovery from wastewater. Economic analysis of successful resource recovery initiatives world-wide concluded that increased pressure from population growth, higher demand for natural resources, rising costs and growing community expectations, will require the water industry identify innovative ways to recover resources from wastewater. A ‘real options analysis’ approach which incorporated avoided costs and economic uncertainties using probabilistic methodologies was developed to assess resource recovery projects. Final Report
$307 764
Robust water recycling in remote areas Victoria University Professor Stephen Gray A research project investigating ways to overcome wastewater treatment challenges in Antarctica found recycling water can deliver high quality water and reduce environmental impact with significant energy savings for remote areas. The innovative new advanced treatment system was designed to be robust and reliable, requiring minimal skilled operator involvement, low chemical and energy consumption, and providing reliable performance. The plant was tested at TasWater’s Selfs Point Wastewater Treatment plant prior to it being shipped to the Australian Antarctic Division’s Davis Station for further trials. Final Report
$3 027 825
Validating pond and lagoon treatment systems Griffith University – Smart Water Research Centre Professor Charles Lemckert A hydrodynamic model to enable water engineers to better design and operate treatment ponds was demonstrated as part of a project seeking to validate pond and lagoon treatment systems. The project recognised the potential that ponds, which are widely used in regional and remote communities for wastewater treatment, have to produce recycled water to offset potable uses and save energy costs. Research was conducted at Maningrida and Ngukurr in the Northern Territory and Helidon in Southeast Queensland. Final Report
$1 432 140
Water recycling in food production and manufacture CSIRO Food and Nutrition Flagship Dr Jay Sellahewa Water recycling offers Australia’s meat, dairy and food processing industries an opportunity to supplement the large the volumes of water required for production. The project investigated how water recycling could be enhanced and high quality food standards upheld. A framework for selecting recycled water technology options and a tool to evaluate the value proposition for different recycling options was developed and validated through case studies conducted in the dairy food and meat sectors and knowledge and learnings made available. Final Report
$2 768 968


Project name Lead organisation Project leader Investment Brief overview
National Validation Framework – Road Map Water Quality Research Australia (WQRA) Dr David Halliwell The project concluded with the delivery of a Road Map for the development of a National Validation Framework for Recycled Water. Final Report
$774 128
Development of validation protocols for a multi-barrier approach University of New South Wales Dr David Roser and Associate Professor Dr Stuart Khan This project studied innovative ways to consider the entire treatment train when validating of water recycling schemes to recognise the cumulative safeguards provided by multiple treatment barriers. Current validation approaches consider water treatment processes individually and fail to consider and quantify the reliability benefits provided by combining multiple barriers as these unlikely to all fail simultaneously. The use of Bayesian Nets was identified as a means of collating information describing system performance, as well as producing validation conclusions through the formalised description of cause-effect relationships that define treatment process mechanisms and observational data. Final Report
$963 928
Development of validation protocols for activated sludge treatment CSIRO Land and Water Flagship Dr Jatinder Sidhu This project responded to the existing complexities and knowledge gaps relating to the contaminant removal in wastewater systems as performed by biological treatment systems. Final Report
$1 444 471
Development of validation protocols for pathogens SA Water – AWQC Dr Paul Monis The variety and variability of methods used for the isolation, culture and detection of pathogens makes comparing data about reference pathogens problematic. This project provided guidance on methods for the concentration, detection and enumeration of reference pathogens used in the Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling to demonstrate treatment system performance. Recommendations on the choice of reference pathogens and indicator microorganisms were provided, pathogen concentration and testing methods were developed or evaluated and an inter-laboratory trial was conducted to assist in improving consistency across the industry. Final Report
$1 117 746
Development of validation protocols for Reverse Osmosis (RO) The University of Queensland Advanced Water Management Centre Dr Marie-Laure Pype There is universal agreement that RO membranes are capable of achieving high LRVs, but there is currently no national or international method for their systematic validation. The project team reviewed literature and industry data on failure mechanisms to develop a validation protocol for RO membranes. Novel techniques for online validation and challenge testing were assessed and recommended. In addition to a validation protocol, research outcomes include a detailed literature review as well as innovative strategies for continuous monitoring of RO performance. Final Report
$1 982 624
Development of validation protocols for Membrane BioReactors (MBR) University of New South Wales Associate Professor Pierre Le-Clech A critical need to better understand and evaluate MBR pathogen reduction performance under long-term operation, based on the use of continuous online monitoring sensors was met by this project. A global survey of MBR systems and validation reports and testing campaigns in full scale sites, collecting data on LRVs and associated operating conditions allowed the establishment of default Final Report
$1 682 472 Log Reduction Values (LRVs), under standard operating conditions. These research outcomes formed a key component of the MBR validation protocol developed for industry use.


Project name Lead organisation Project leader Investment Brief overview
A review of the sustainability of water recycling GHD David de Hass A review of the application of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to an urban water system in Australia examined the relative sustainability of one supply option compared to another against a range of environmental sustainability indicators. Final Report
$503 891
Advancing potable reuse WateReuse Foundation (USA) Various The Centre invested in three projects, focussed on challenges common to Australia and the US in relation to recycling water for drinking. The projects examined: sensor data for real time decision making, predicting the impact of extreme conditions on pathogen removal, and developing a triple bottom line methodology for assessing direct potable reuse. Final Report
$ 175 000
Bioanalytical tools in recycled water quality assessment Griffith University Dr Fred Leusch and Assoc Prof Heather Chapman This project conducted an overview of the historical context, application, and communication of bio-analytical tools for recycled water quality assessment in Australia. The focus was initially on the technical development of bio-analytical tools and expanded to encompass the societal as well as technical issues posing a barrier to consideration of recycled water. Of particular significance was the subject area involving risk perception and trust in the water provider. A set of FAQs developed improves understanding of water quality assessment using bio-analytical tools. Final Report
$364 455
Drinking water through recycling – a discussion paper Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) Dr Stuart Khan This independent peer-reviewed research report concluded that Direct Potable Reuse (DPR) is technically feasible, can safely supply potable water directly into the water distribution system, and should be seriously considered as a viable option. It found that DPR is likely to be more cost-effective than indirect potable reuse (IPR) due to lower energy requirements, construction costs, and operational costs. A review of Australian legislation and regulations found that existing frameworks for planning, approval and management of drinking water quality and recycled water can accommodate a well-designed and operated direct potable reuse scheme. Final Report
$270 000
Enhancing risk communication Smart Water Research Centre, Griffith University Dr Victoria Ross The project team identified key enablers and barriers to effective risk communication, as well as successful strategies for dealing with the challenges of implementing and promoting confidence in potable water reuse projects. As part of the research the project team produced a report detailing the lessons learnt from national and international case studies: to provide guidance for successful implementation of water reuse projects. Final Report
$262 728
Influencing community acceptance of water recycling Victoria University Dr Daniel Ooi The research team found that variables influencing community acceptance of potable water reuse include the quality and consistency of the community outreach, levels of water scarcity and perceived levels of environmental benefit. Each of their five reports addressed a key influence and produced a water reuse and communities toolkit to assist scheme proponents. No report available
$411 614
Planning, governance and regulation Marsden Jacob and Associates Dr John Marsden and Rod Carr Examination of the planning, governance and regulation issues arising with the South East Queensland Western Corridor Project, the West Australian Groundwater Replenishment Trial and Final Report
$132 280 Water Purification project proposed in the ACT was conducted. Researchers concluded that as a newer and inherently more complex than a more traditional water supply option, stakeholder engagement for potable reuse projects needs to clearly outline the decision making process, identify information requirements and define the multiple parties involved. Participation of health regulators provided valuable perspectives.
Potable reuse – education and engagement products New Water Resources Linda Macpherson Using the extensive body of evidence collated on how to engage stakeholders effectively, a number of tools and resources, including an on-line global map, and audio visual materials were developed to assist scheme proponents conduct meaningful conversations and increase acceptance of potable reuse as an option to augmenting drinking supplies. An evaluation conducted in four Australian capital cities found that the material developed can have a significant impact on understanding of, and preparedness for, water reuse. Final Report
$950 709
Resilience of Advanced Water Treatment Plants for potable reuse The University of New South Wales Dr Greg Leslie Using data from seven Advanced Water Treatment Plants from around the world with a cumulative operating history of 64 years, the project team developed a mechanical resilience model and modelled events that potentially impact water production and/or water quality over a 10-year period and provided insights into optimum operation of a plant for safety and reliability. The resilience modelling concluded that Advanced Water Treatment Plants were mechanically resilient and capable of reliably producing high quality water for Indirect Potable Reuse applications. Final Report
$531 664
Rethinking community engagement University of New South Wales Dr Matthew Kearnes This investigation into the elements of successful community engagement programs synthesised a variety of qualitative research findings and outlines a series of implications for community engagement practices and the design of media strategies. The research team also produced guideline documents for managing media and conducting community engagement programs in relation to water recycling for drinking schemes. Final Report
$503 414
Water quality and public health – a global perspective The University of New South Wales Dr James Woods and Dr Laura Onyango This project examined and analysed the historical safety of potable recycled water schemes and the quality of the water produced drawing upon experience and data from seven schemes from around the world. An expert panel of health professionals reviewed the case studies and data collected and agreed that the analyses carried out would provide appropriate information for water and health professionals to comment on both the risks associated with potable recycling and the efficacy of the process barriers and preventative measures in mitigating these risks. Final Report
$293 218


Project name Lead organisation Project leader Investment Brief overview
Characterising the performance and fouling of fibre mechanisms Fellowship host: University of Technology Dr Mariam Darestani As part of the national Industry-academic exchange program for water recycling, this study of online electrical sensor technology that monitors fouling of membranes at wastewater treatment plants, contributed to seeking real process improvement opportunities for the water sector. The research found that the sensors optimise efficiency and cleaning of membrane bioreactors and could eventually be a cost-effective option compared with conventional pressure or flux testing techniques. The research concluded that further pilot testing was justified given the growing market for membrane bioreactors for municipal wastewater treatment. Final Report
$80 000
Integrating energy, public health and sustainability considerations into benchmarking reuse system performance Fellowship host: SA Water Dr Michael Short As part of the national Industry-academic exchange program for water recycling, Dr Michael Short developed and applied energy benchmarking successfully employed for optimising wastewater treatment options to water recycling systems. His approach integrated public health, energy and environmental considerations in a bid to make water recycling operations more energy efficient by optimising their management and operation. The benchmarking method was trialled on three full-scale South Australian water recycling systems, resulting in the identification of a number of optimisation opportunities. Final Report
$80 000
Linking bio-analytical tools to human health issues Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence Ian Law, Independent consultant Even though bio-analytical tools play an increasing role in water quality assessment, it is unclear how bioassays can be meaningfully used within a regulatory framework or to determine human health risks associated with drinking water. Experts initiated an ongoing discussion across international borders on the valuable role and key challenges in the application of bio-analytical tools. A tentative “road map” was identified to enable better links between the results of specific bio-analytical tools and human health risks related to drinking water. Final Report
$166 000
National database for climate resilient water sources Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) Dr Amgad Elmahdi Climate resilient water sources such as recycled and desalinated water play an important part in increasing water security. This project produced a single platform that provides information on desalinated and recycled water sources based on capacity, production and use across Australia. BOM website
$835 289 It comprehensively maps over 360 public and privately operated and owned plants, including
250 water recycling sites. Data on the location, treatment, capacity, production and use of water produced will be collected and updated by the Bureau of Meteorology.
National Urban Water Data Collection Australian National Data Service Catherine Brady This project provides a means to better describe, connect and identify urban water data and information generated by Australian research, government and industry organisations. It is assisting universities, research programs and government agencies better describe urban water metadata, and make it more accessible, re-usable and connected. Final Report
$20 000
Particles, pathogens and micropollutants Fellowship host: RMIT Professor Karl Linden As part of the national Industry-academic exchange program for water recycling, Professor Linden’s expertise in advanced disinfection and oxidation processes was applied to the Western Corridor Advanced Treatment Scheme in Queensland, and used to help gain approval from the Victorian Department of Health for Melbourne Water’s reuse applications. His contribution to research and education in the area of water reuse was recognised internationally when he was awarded the 2014 WateReuse Person of the year by the US-based WateReuse Association. Final Report
$80 000
Water Research Access Portal Water Services Association of Australia Gayathri Jasper In response to a need to better describe and access urban research data and information, the Water Research Access Portal (WRAP) was developed to link the water industry to knowledge, tools and publications held by over 15 Research and Development organisations. The WRAP is the established ‘go-to’ site for Australian water research information. Currently there are 118 links to WRAP from other websites, from 10 different organisations, with a number of organisations seeking to also include their material on the website. Final Report
$105 000


About the AWRCoE Knowledge Hub Research Projects List of Publications Corporate Publications