Welcome to our March 2022 research and innovation newsletter.
There’s lots of interesting stuff in this edition, but I suggest going straight to the end and working backwards. Okay, so the last article is not about water – but it really is the most interesting.
Oh… and if you see any interesting articles, projects or news about research that others might be interested in, please send to [email protected] – it could even make the next newsletter due in April 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.
Image pexels-photo-91413_David McEachan
Developing a Water Industry Innovation Ecosystem

While everyone has been working from home and learning to Zoom into work, WSAA has been thinking about how all the elements of our water industry work together to support innovation.

The Industry Innovation Ecosystem is a bold shift in how we think about innovation, research and development. In a nutshell, it’s about looking more broadly and focussing on things that we have thought, traditionally, were out of our control.

Read more about the Ecosystem here at Water360.

Image from WaterRF website
WRF Matching up to $150K for Research Projects For WSAA Members

The US Water Research Foundation (WRF) is inviting pre-proposals from WSAA members wishing to participate in the 2022 Tailored Collaboration Program. The Program matches up to $150K (US) for utility or regional research projects that address issues of significant interest to WRF subscribers.

Projects funded under the Program are chosen annually through a two-stage competitive process. Candidates whose pre-proposals are approved will be invited to submit a full proposal to compete for funding. Proposals are evaluated based on topic breadth and applicability, originality, technical approach, budget, management plan, and qualifications of key personnel.

Pre-proposals are due by 7:00 am AEST on June 7, 2022

2022 Tailored Collaboration Pre-Proposal Guidelines.

Read more here at the WRF

Image from the published paper
Watershed Paper for Natural Resources Management

A broad international coalition of academics have published an important paper outlining a new Urban Nature Futures Framework (UNFF). The framework describes, in a practical sense, how to structure management around multiple perspectives and benefits.

The structure simply talks about three perspectives: Nature for Nature, Nature for Society, and Nature as Culture. This may seem oversimplified, but natural resources management is often seen exclusively from one viewpoint at a time. A framework that provides a place for cultural and functional perspectives, as well as the environmental perspective, can be a powerful tool for engaging the community and government.

Read the paper here at ScienceDirect

Image of people from the WRF website
New Project from WRF: Developing Utility Analysis and Improvement Methodology

The US Water Research Foundation (WRF) have recently published findings from a project that will provide water sector utilities with a well-defined, structured, value-based improvement methodology.

The conceptual framework and the improvement methodology developed through this project can be used by utilities to document their business processes, assess the maturity of their existing processes, design the desired processes, and implement improvements.

If you’re a member of WSAA you can access the report here at the WRF.

If you’re a member of WSAA and you’ve never signed on to WRF, just sign up using your utility email here.

Image captured from Spring video
Spring Launches First Innovation Challenge

In the UK Spring has launched the first of its innovation challenges. It’s not a surprise that Spring, along with their partner Isle Utilities, have identified cutting process-based emissions and delivering on Net Zero as the biggest climate challenge related to the water sector in the UK.

Their first challenge is: “How can a reduction in operational emissions from water and wastewater treatment be achieved?”

Maybe this is an issue that we should be paying more attention to in Australia?

Find out more at Spring

Image of treatment plant from article
It’s Never Been a More Exciting Time to Work in Water
Queensland Urban Utilities have embraced innovation as critical to how they do business and critical to attracting new people to their team.
The key messages are that we need to think about the water industry as an exciting place to be. It’s not just a place where we treat our waste, but somewhere where you can harness creative energies to have a positive impact on the challenges posed by population growth and climate change.


Image from article
Satellites Providing Unparalleled Accuracy in Dam Surveillance
Hunter Water has employed innovative satellite technology to increase the accuracy of its monitoring of Grahamstown and Chichester Dams, its two biggest assets.
The dam monitoring solution features an online portal offering a dashboard view, while detailed reports provide early information and analysis of any potentially irregular ground movement and vegetation growth.
The most interesting thing is that the satellite monitoring has an accuracy in the one to two millimetre range.


Image of PFOS molecule from wikipedia
New Method to Destroy PFAS

New research led by the US EPA has moved a step closer to developing a method for destroying PFAS. The method tested uses supercritical water Oxidation.

In supercritical oxidation, water is heated above 374°C at 22.1 MPa and enters a special state where organic solubility increases and oxidation processes are accelerated.

Read more here in the Scientific American

Image from article
Sydney Water Trial New Low Voltage Conductivity to Assess Sewer Pipes

An interesting 2020 white paper from Electro Scan Inc. reported the results of trials with Sydney Water to test the field application of electric current, capable of assessing full-length 360-degree pipe walls to automatically locate and estimate any leaks in litres per second.

The white paper includes a detail review of existing
assessment techniques, project findings, technology
overview, and field results from each of the Sydney Water project areas.

Read the paper on WaterOnline

Image from WaterWorld article
Laboratory Develops Self-Sustaining Biofuel Recovery

A research team from the US Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNLL) claims to have developed a self-sustaining process that converts wastewater into fuels, while also keeping waste carbon out of our atmosphere and water.

The process uses electrocatalytic oxidation and can generate energy required, while simultaneously treating wastewater at near atmospheric conditions, making it inexpensive to operate and potentially carbon neutral.

Read more here at WaterWorld

Screen grab from video on website
Tesla Thwarted by Dropping Water Tables

Ramping up its new Gigafactory in Germany’s eastern state of Brandenburg is key to Tesla’s global ambitions. However, Tesla is still waiting for final approval from local authorities.

Brandenburg’s water table has been dropping for the past three decades and there is only enough water for the first stage of the factory construction.


Image from website
California Agency Will Pilot Test Solar Panels Over Canals

The Turlock Irrigation District (TID) in California plans to use a $20 million grant to demonstrate solar panels atop canals.

The panels would feed electricity into transmission lines already along the canals, helping TID boost the renewable sources for its 103,000 or so power customers. The devices also would shade the water, possibly reducing evaporation losses for farmers.

The pilot project grew out of a study at the University of California.

Read more at the Modesto Bee

Image of carbon nanotube from article
Quantum Friction Explains Water’s Freaky Flow

Researchers from the Flatiron Institute in New York and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) have explained how water moves through carbon nanotubes.

It seems that water molecules have slightly different charges on each of their ends, so when they flow along nanotube walls, the electrons within those walls respond to the molecules’ slight electric nudge by all moving in synchrony.

This is really interesting stuff!

Read it here at the Scientific American

Image from paper in Joule
Recycled Lithium-Ion Batteries Can Perform Better Than New Ones

New research from the US has developed an elegant recycling method for lithium-ion batteries that refurbishes the cathode. The cathode is the lithium-ion battery’s most expensive component and key to supplying the proper voltage.

The researchers found that batteries they made with their new cathode-recycling technique perform just as well as those with a cathode made from scratch. In fact, batteries with the recycled cathode both last longer and charge faster.

Read more at Scientific American

image from website
Engineered Bacteria Upcycle Carbon Waste Into Valuable Chemicals

Researchers led by Northwestern University and LanzaTech claim to have harnessed bacteria to break down waste carbon dioxide to make valuable industrial chemicals.

In a new pilot study, the researchers selected, engineered, and optimized a bacteria strain and then successfully demonstrated its ability to convert CO2 into acetone and isopropanol (IPA).

Not only does this new gas fermentation process remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, but it also avoids using fossil fuels.

Read more at Scitechdaily

Image from Kando website
Israel Rolls Out Covid-19 Sewage Monitoring Tool
Israel’s Ministry of Health has begun applying an innovative tool to help with monitoring Covid-19 in wastewater. The tool is based on the use of sensors and control units placed in municipal sewage systems with computer analysis, big data and Artificial Intelligence.
The tool provides decision makers with relevant insights and warnings about latent morbidity, the beginning of a future wave of morbidity and the discovery of new variants.
Image of light globes from article
These Countries Have the Most Female Inventors

It will probably surprise you that the share of female inventors among applicants for international patents was highest in Cuba and the Philippines in 2021.

Read more at WEF

Image of Hyundai from paper
‘Endangered Metals’ No Longer Needed to Produce Hydrogen From Water

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science (CSRS) in Japan have developed a new, rare metal-free method for producing hydrogen from water.

Instead of scarce materials, the scientists found a way to use cobalt and manganese to produce hydrogen for fuel cells and agricultural fertilizers.

Read more here at

Image from article in PhysicsWorld
Hybrid Device Acts as Both Solar Cell and Battery
Researchers from Suzhou University of Science and Technology, China and the National University of Singapore have developed a new photoelectric system that converts light into an electric charge and then stores the charge like a battery – a first for a single device.
This could open the door for a whole world of new solar applications; however, at present the device will only operate at around 30 degrees Kelvin.
Image of the Earth from article
Where Did Water Come From?

Researchers from Skoltech and Nankai University, China have proposed new hypothesis of water origins. They propose that during the Earth’s formation water was locked up in a chemical compound consisting of magnesium hydrosilicate.

What is really interesting is the whole concept of chemical compounds becoming extinct. Much in the same way as evolutionary biology proposes that animal species become extinct.

Read more here at Phys.Org 

Image from Greenpeace website
New Green Energy Electricity Guide
Greenpeace have just published this handy Australian guide to help you choose the greenest possible energy for you home/business.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t include a price guide, but it does suggest advice that, in the long term, the cost of fossil fuels will only increase.
Image from video on RMIT website
New Self-Cleaning Bioplastics Repel Liquid and Dirt

Researchers from RMIT have developed a self-cleaning bioplastic that is sturdy, sustainable and compostable.

The researchers were inspired to replicate the water-repellent structure of lotus leaves to help deliver a unique type of bioplastic that precisely combines both strength and degradability.

Made of starch and cellulose, this could be a gamechanger for the takeaway food industry.

Read more here at RMIT

Image from website
Get inspiration for a story from an artificial intelligence

If you need some fun in your day, try this small but intriguing tool developed by Rodolfo Ocampo, a PhD student at the University of New South Wales.

Just tap in two words that inspire you and see what happens. The author says that the purpose is to to explore creative augmentation using AI, and human-AI creative collaboration.

I found it’s vocabulary is surprisingly good. I typed in ‘cucumber’ and ‘regulation’ and got the following answer:

‘Regulations about what can and cannot be put into a cucumber are important because they help to keep the cucumbers safe to eat.’

Access the tool 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.
SWAN 12th Annual Conference
May 24-26, 2022, Georgetown, Washington, DC and Online

The SWAN 12th Annual Conference is a leading smart water
event in the US and could be a great opportunity to network with progressive utilities, leading experts and thought leaders while exploring global innovative technologies.

The conference will have an online offering which might be attractive to Australian audiences.

Vicwater Annual Conference
7 – 9 June 2022, The Langham, Melbourne

This year the VicWater conference will explore the theme of ‘resilience and readiness’ highlighting the areas in which we need to progress.

The conference includes both in-person and online opportunities.

The Conference will commence with a program for in-person delegates with a social hour on Tuesday evening, before the commencement of the official program at 8:30am Wednesday morning.

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.

Image clipped from the Water360 Homepage
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