December Research News
Research Newsletter – December 2021
Welcome to our December 2021 research and innovation newsletter.

I’m happy to declare that this issue is 100% COVID free and has been fully vaccinated; however, masks are not required.

 Oh… and if you see any interesting articles, projects or news about research that others might be interested in, please send to [email protected] for the next newsletter due in January 2022.

If you’ve stumbled on this newsletter and would like to receive future editions please click this link. Or if you know someone who really needs this: forward to a friend.
Industry Innovation and Resilience
Image clipped from article
Australian Urban Water Industry Research Priorities Agenda

The Australian Urban Water Industry Research Priorities Agenda released last week with Water Research Australia, provides strong direction and focus to support and guide research investment across the Australian urban water industry.

The new Agenda will help the water industry prepare for and manage significant future challenges and provide a catalyst for taking full advantage of recent rapid advancements in technology and the industry’s growing appetite for innovation.

Read more here

Image from paper

Water Fuelling the Path To A Hydrogen Future

A hydrogen revolution is gathering pace, with governments and industry bodies announcing a plethora of new hydrogen projects, strategies and policy frameworks.

At this crucial point in time, this paper provides the basics of hydrogen for the urban water industry, answers some key emerging questions, and points to questions that warrant exploration in the years ahead.

Read more here

Image clipped from BOM explorer
BOM Launches Australian Water Outlook Website

The newly minted Australian Water Outlook website is a lot of fun. You can zip around on historical maps of precipitation, soil moisture, runoff and deep drainage from 1911 until yesterday.

You can also look at maps of short term forecasts (1-9 days) with daily maps available for root-zone soil moisture, evapotranspiration and runoff – updated daily (to be released 2022).

And if that is not enough to wet the climate whistle, you can also access seasonal forecasts (1-3 month) with monthly outputs available for root-zone soil moisture, evapotranspiration and runoff – updated monthly.

But what will make you giddy with anticipation are the two greenhouse gas concentration pathways (RCPs), four Global Climate Models (GCMs) one dynamically downscaled Regional Climate Model (RCM) that are bias-corrected using three methods and downscaled to the model AWRA-L grid scale.

Phew! Click here and be prepared

Image from CSIRO website
Every $1 Invested in R&D Returns $3.50
According to a new report by CSIRO Futures each dollar invested in research and development (R&D) would earn an average of A$3.50 in economy-wide benefits for Australia.
Interestingly, one of the basic assumption of CSIRO’s model is that in the long-term, economic growth is entirely attributable to technological innovation.
Image clipped from article
Call to Restore Flatlining Public Research Investment

Science & Technology Australia (STA), which represents 90,000 STEM professionals across the research and development sector, is calling for a “seismic investment” in R&D it says will create jobs in a “STEM-led economic recovery”.

While Australia’s investment in R&D has plummeted from 2.11 per cent in 2011/12 to 1.79 per cent in 2019/20, competing nations have moved the other way.

Read more here

Logo of InstMC
Collaboration With Sydney Water Wins Cornish Award

We can’t help being a bit proud that a team from Sydney Water working with City, University of London has received the Cornish Award for work done in the field of ‘Humidity Monitoring in Wastewater Infrastructure’, developing photonic sensors to monitor humidity in the aggressive air in gravity sewers and other gaseous streams.

The Cornish award from the Institute of Measurement and Control is given to an individual, group or company that has excelled in some dimension of scientific instrument making within industry, academia and national or international laboratories.

Read a bit more here

The award is sponsored by the ‘Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers’. It’s worth having a look at this web site specially to find out about what a livery year is, how you become a liveryman, how they install masters and wardens in the Admission Court, whether you should attend guildhall and know when you should join the Lord Mayor’s flotilla. I particularly like the role of Honorary Almoner.

Image clipped from application form
Victoria Offers Integrated Water Management Grants

The Victorian Government is offering to co-invest $14.1 million over three financial years (2021-22 to 2023-24) in projects that improve the resilience and liveability of Victoria’s cities and towns.

The program is open to all organisations that participate in the Victorian Integrated Water Management Forums, which include water corporations, catchment management authorities, local governments, Traditional Owner corporations, alpine resort management boards and water sector partners, including the Victorian Planning Authority.

The program also aims to support Traditional Owner-led projects through a separate funding path designed to reduce inequity, support self-determination and respect Traditional Owner decision-making processes and timelines.

The 2021-22 competitive funding round will close on 13 December 2021.

Read more here

Image clipped from article
Outcome Based Contracting – Can You Trust Your Contractor?

Alyson Watson, CEO of Woodard & Curran in the US, argues that the water industry needs a fresh approach to delivering services and advocates for an outcome based contracting approach focused on trust and empathy.

It takes two and half minutes to get past the acknowledgement of sponsors, but it’s worth the wait. Alyson describes herself as a ‘water brat’.

This is a very thoughtful discussion that teases apart the need for empathy and trust as the basis for contracting. There are definite signs that in the post-Trump world there is much work to be done to repair polarised relationships.

Listen to the podcast here

Image Supplied by SA Water
SA Water Breaking New Ground With a Reverse Pitch

SA Water has partnered with Stone & Chalk to reverse pitch some of its more specific challenges. The reverse pitch is a method for gathering solutions by calling out to innovators.

The virtual live event is hosted at Stone & Chalk within South Australia’s innovation hub, Lot Fourteen in the Adelaide CBD, and is broken into three parts:

  • Problem Statement event, recorded on 12 November and available on this link.
  • Pitch Event, Thursday 2 December where innovators and entrepreneurs will make their pitch.
  • Winners will be announced on Wednesday 8 December.

SA Water are calling for innovators who have potential ideas or solutions in the following areas:

Safety – How might we use technology to help our people and the communities’ we serve, stay safer, reduce risk of injury or harm, and increase productivity?

Driving customer outcomes – How might we use technology to provide smarter water management and monitoring for our customers?

Proactive environmental leadership – How might we support our communities’ in moving toward a cleaner and greener net zero future?You can find out more or register to be part of the event here

Image of standards logos from Google search
Standards Australia to Release NDMA and Chloramine Amendment for Comment

WSAA, together with its members and technical consultant, have worked with Standards Australia to draft an amendment to the AS/NZS 4020 – Testing of products for use in contact with drinking water.

The amendment addresses the formation of NDMA associated with chloramine and presence of elastomeric material.

The amendment will be listed with the designation AS/NZS 4020:2018 on the Standards Australia Drafts for Public Comment (note you will need to setup an account through Standards Australia to access)

Please submit your input to the amendment and for any questions please contact [email protected]

Ofwat logo
Ofwat Chief highlights Failure of Business Retail Market to Deliver Improvements

David Black, Interim Chief Executive at Ofwat, the UK water financial regulator, has highlighted ongoing issues in the UK business retail market, including market frictions in terms of data quality and wholesaler performance, insufficient levels of innovation and failure of the market to deliver improvements to water efficiency.

This is a really interesting read. This is the financial regulator telling utilities to engage in meaningful innovation that:

  • lowers the costs to customers engaging in the market – for example via multi utility bundling; or
  • increases the benefits to customers of engaging – for example via transformation of the retailer offering.

The level of frustration is palpable: “The introduction of the retail market was not about carving up the pie, it was about harnessing market forces to grow the size of the pie.”

Read more here

Image of child drinking water
Water Quality Advisory Committee – Expression of Interest

The National Health and Medical Research Council is looking for experts to join the Water Quality Advisory Committee. The role of the committee is to advise on water-related public health issues, in particular, priorities and quality of the evidence to inform the rolling review of the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

Individuals are invited to apply to be considered for appointment to the Committee by submitting a one-page pitch and their CV.

Applications close at 11.59pm (AEDST) 17 December 2021.

Read more here

Image from web page
WRF TechLink Provides Amazing Resource

If you are looking for a technical solution to a thorny problem, it’s about time that you had a look at TechLink.

TechLink is not just a database of many useful technologies for the water industry, it’s also a contact point for networking and partnering. TechLink provides technical review and information on the kinds technologies that you need. And best of all – TechLink is free to WSAA members.

To Access TechLink, just click here to use your Water Research Foundation password to login. If you don’t have a password then create a new account here.

Photo by Crazy Cake on Unsplash
Managing Innovation Under Asymmetric Information
Did you know that information asymmetry plays a dual role as it both generates market failures and gives birth to entrepreneurial opportunities?
This is some really interesting research that reviews the literature around the role of information asymmetry in the management of innovation.
I think there are some practical take-aways – the more knowledge you have the more you can control and ensure you’re making the best decision.
Image of graph from article
Water Takes a Seat at the Table in Landmark Infrastructure Bill
The new US infrastructure bill is about to release $55 billion of funding for water & wastewater infrastructure. You have to wonder whether in Australia would we be able to secure 10% of available funding from all infrastructure investment?
In this article Bluefield Research give their assessment of the implications of this massive injection of funding.
The real risk is that the industry is not shovel ready. It’s harder to spend money than receive it.
Image from paper
Promoting Inclusive Metrics of Success and Impact

An international team of researchers advocate shifting the current value system for measuring the impact of science to principals of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion and away from a system that perpetuates sexist and racist “rewards” by prioritising citations and impact factors.

These metrics, it is argued, are flawed and biased against already marginalized groups and fail to accurately capture the breadth of individuals’ meaningful scientific impacts.

In a practical sense, this paper introduces the concept of ‘mentorship’ as the foundation for moving to a new, more inclusive, academic environment.

Read the paper here

water supply and security
Photo by Toby Yang on Unsplash

China’s 14th Five-Year Plan Tackles the Big Water Issues

China has recently announced a new five-year plan: and it is vast. It is an amazing read and if half of what they plan, happens, the world will be a better place.

It’s hard to pin down what the plan intends to say about water because translations of the plan seem to refer to resource conservation in a way that is holistic and includes a very broad understanding of energy and resources.

The plan says that China: ‘will build an environmental infrastructure system that integrates sewage, garbage, solid waste, hazardous waste, and medical waste treatment and disposal facilities as well as monitoring and regulation capabilities, and form an environmental infrastructure network that extends from cities to established towns and villages’.

They also plan to ‘increase the utilization rate of wastewater resources in water-scarce cities at the prefecture level and above to over 25%.’

There are also a number of specific commitments; for instance, a commitment to the development of sponge cities. There is much reading here; and many surprises.

A knowledgeable analysis from a water perspective can be found here

An analysis of what the whole plan means can be found here

The full report is here

Energy and the Circular economy

Image from article
Utilities On Pathway to Carbon Neutrality
Researchers at WSP have been working with the water industry to help identify the challenges and opportunities for the water sector in working toward net zero emissions.
In this interview with the Australian Water Association, WSP Senior Water Treatment Engineers Tanu Kaur and Matt Lyon give an update.
What comes across powerfully, is the key role of our State regulators in establishing and supporting targets.
Image of treatment plant clipped from article
Hydrogen Cheaply Produced from Wastewater with New Technique

Researchers from the University of Warwick have used a recycled carbon-fibre mat to produce hydrogen from wastewater, with the hope that it could be used to power electric vehicles.

The researchers worked with Severn Trent to cut the energy used in the purification process by using microbial electrolysis cells that use electromagnetic microorganisms to break down organic pollutants, producing clean water and hydrogen gas.

Read more here

Photo by Nick Nice on Unsplash
Coal Could Find New Use in Eco-Friendly Desalination
A team of researchers from Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) have developed a new method of low cost solar driven desalination that uses a blend of cotton fibres and an engineered coal product.
The coal matrix is created by grinding coal or charcoal into a powder, then compressing it back into a solid which is more porous than the original material – the material can also be molded to a desired shape.
No carbon emissions are released during this process.
Image of winners from the KWR website
Autonomous Inspection Robot Receives Innovation Award

An autonomous inspection robot (AIR) has won an award for innovation at Aquatech in Amsterdam. A Dutch consortium that includes seven water companies and KWR have worked with Demcon Robotic Systems to develop a new robot that lives in the pipe network and negotiates around corners to inspect pipes and pass back data on pipe network condition.

Read more here, or

Read much more detail here

Image clipped from website
FOG – the Dark Side of Dark Kitchens

This is a really interesting article about dark kitchens and FOG. A dark kitchen is a new type of food serving establishment that prepares take-away food for delivery only and FOG refers to fats, oils and grease.

In the UK, 70 per cent of sewer blockages can be attributed to FOG – it’s a major issue. Thames Water spends £18 million a year on clearing blockages caused by FOG.

Read more here

Image from Idrica website
Spain Pioneers 5G Smart Meter for Water

Spanish water industry service provider Idrica is piloting their first 5G device developed specifically for the water industry. The device is based exclusively on 5G-NR (New Radio) technology and is intended for use in Internet of Things (IoT) scenarios with millions of devices connected in small areas.

Features include improved energy efficiency, guarantee of service in adverse conditions and reduced latency to milliseconds, while other benefits of 5G technologies include network slicing for multi-service provision and edge computing.

Partners in the project include the telco Orange, which is leading the joint venture, Valencia water company Global Omnium and 5G R&D company Fivecomm.

Read more here

Liveability and health
Image from web site
Researchers Map the Impact of Human Sewage on Coastlines Around The World

Researchers from the University of California and Columbia University calculated the volume of nitrogen and faecal indicator organisms entering the ocean from about 135,000 watersheds around the world.

They found that just 25 watersheds contribute nearly half of all wastewater nitrogen, with the Yangtze River in China contributing 11 per cent of the world’s total.

A really interesting finding is that the level of nitrogen entering oceans from a watershed is related to the level of meat consumption. Vegetarians are kinder to our oceans.

Read more here

Some interesting things
Image cut from website
Seven Myths and Missteps of Innovation Culture
This is an interesting cautionary discussion about how to avoid missteps in the development of an innovation culture. While it isn’t focussed on the water industry, the issues raised by this article seem universal.
Passion and energy are essential elements for those pursuing an innovation culture. But sometimes a cautionary word can be very helpful.
Image of antarctic mountains from article
Antarctic Bacteria Make Water Using Hydrogen as Fuel
A multinational team of researchers have studied 451 kinds of Antarctic bacteria and have found a very distinct lineage that diverged from their cousins in other continents a billion years ago.
Amazingly they have found that 90% of Antarctic soil bacteria consume hydrogen from air and use chemosynthesis to power the conversion of carbon dioxide into biomass.
Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash
Electric Car Chargers to Be Required in New Homes in England

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that all new homes and buildings in England will be required to have electric car chargers installed beginning next year.

The legislation, which Johnson announced at the annual Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference, will install up to 145,000 extra charging points every year, according to a statement from the prime minister’s office.

The requirement will also apply to buildings undergoing renovation. Facilities that are left with more than 10 parking spaces will be compelled to install electric vehicle charging points.

Read more here

Image from shutterstock_606840716
How Artificial Intelligence Could Revolutionise the Insurance Industry
While we are all thinking about how AI is going to improve our lives, the insurance industry is thinking about how it is going to make it easier for them to manage risk.
Usage-based insurance is the insurance of our futures. It’s like regular insurance, but instead of operating on assumptions about the risk, it adjusts to the specifics of the risk. For instance, wet weather and a heavy load could increase the cost of insurance in heavy transport.
Apparently, there are some difficulties in implementing usage-based insurance, but one authority assures us that the ‘Unlock is explainability’. Don’t you love language.
Image from video
Cassandra Conference 2021 – Recording

The Cassandra conference looks for scientific, technological, and socio-political answers to the challenges of managing climate change in the Mediterranean. The issues raised range across health, migration, conflict, and gender inequality.

In the opening sentences the Chair of Eurecat recalls his personal meeting with Noam Chomsky. This is a group of heavy thinkers focusing their efforts to imagine how the research community can contribute to solving the problem of climate change.

All 12 sessions of this major Mediterranean based conference are available online.

Watch the conference here

Image of the Bardee team from the website
Aussie Start-up Enlists Insect Army to Tackle Food Waste

The team at Melbourne start-up Bardee are using the larvae from black soldier flies to to transform food waste into nutrient-rich fertiliser and pet products.

Bardee’s processing plant breaks down food waste much faster than commercial composting, preventing the C02 emissions that occur when food products are left to break down naturally.

Read more here

37th Annual WateReuse Symposium
6-9 March, 2022, San Antonio, Texas and Online
More details as they come to hand
10-12 May 2025, Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre
Ozwater is Australia’s most prominent international annual water conference and exhibition, considered the highlight of the water sector’s calendar of events.
This year’s theme is Our Water Journey, which celebrates the evolution of the water sector from its rich history, where we are now and what possibilities lie in our future.

African Water Association Knowledge Management Platform

Sharing Africa’s water and sanitation sector knowledge
Australian Government – GrantConnect
Forecast and current Australian Government grant opportunities
WaterRF web site image and unSplash
Free Access to US Water Research Foundation Resources
Great news! If your utility is a member of WSAA, you have access to all the online resources of the US Water Research Foundation (WaterRF), including:
  • Access to a huge library of research, webinars and support material covering all facets of the water industry.
  • Opportunities to participate in collaborative research projects with international teams and gain first-hand access to results.
  • Opportunities to participate in Project Advisory Committees, learn from international experience and share your expertise.
  • Access to the TechLink program and the industry’s shared experience with emerging technology.

Watch a short video

If you would like access to WaterRF – and who wouldn’t – please send an email to Dale Watson.

Clip from website
Water Research Access Portal
The Water Research Access Portal (WRAP) is an important resource for those on a quest for knowledge. The WRAP is an online database of reputable Australian urban water research that helps you focus your search on themes that matter.
WSAA also holds the Water 360 database, a global digital repository on community education and customer engagement items on purified recycled water for drinking and other matters. Watch this space for more news in coming editions.

And the WRAP is available on this link

Water Research Access Portal
Your gateway to reputable Australian urban water research.
Water Research Foundation
WSAA utility members can access reports and webinars for free