October Research News
Research Newsletter – October 2021
Welcome to our October 2021 research and innovation newsletter.
Once again it’s time to put your metaphorical feet up; or even your real feet (and your metaphorical feet) and immerse yourself in the world of water research and innovation. Sit back, relax and revel in the discovery that awaits.
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 Novermber 2021.
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
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Sydney Water Innovation Festival

In collaboration with Northumbrian Water in the UK and Festival partners, Isle Utilities, Sydney Water is bringing to Australia a fantastic new fun and interactive opportunity to explore how we can create a better life for communities through innovation.

The Festival brings together Sydney Water staff, research and academia, key business partners and stakeholders as well as the indigenous community to address key industry challenges.

The event includes design sprints, a hackathon, tech shark tanks, debates, fireside chats and inspirational speakers under six themes:

1. Amplifying the voice of First Nations people
2. Circular Economy
3. Water Security
4. Smart Cities
5. Liveability

6. Customer Experience

Watch an introductory video here

Register and learn more about it here

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Highlights from the W-lab Enterprise Frame Power Hour

The W-Lab Enterprise Frame recently showcased a number of creative solutions that help water utilities use data and analytics to support decision-making and optimize current processes.

The Accelerate Phase now seeks to validate these solutions through collaborative technology trials, where utilities can share learnings and spread the costs and risks associated with innovation.

Watch the action here

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Toolbox For Water Utilities on Purified Recycled Water
WSAA has curated a range of resource materials on purified recycled water for drinking into a toolkit for water utilities.
This toolkit contains a range of resource materials on purified recycled water for drinking and will eventually be housed, along with a raft of other resources, on a soon to be revamped Water360 website. This toolkit, including individual items, will be updated regularly.
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PFAS in Biosolids: Biotic Weathering, Leaching, and Transport

15th October, 4:00am – 5:00am AEDT
It will be worth getting up early for this great opportunity to hear from a Water Research Foundation project team that explored how PFAS partitioning changes as biosolids are biologically weathered and how PFAS transports vertically through the soil column.
This project is helping to build fundamental knowledge and may be essential material to guide utilitiy decision making.
Meanwhile, The US EPA has just annouced $6 Million for research on the potential risks from pollutants found in biosolids. Given the potential scale of benefits, the US research may yield valuable results for Australian utilities.
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National Water Reform 2020 Productivity Commission Inquiry Report

The Productivity Commission has released its assessment of  the progress of the Australian, State and Territory governments have made since 2017 towards achieving the objectives and outcomes of the National Water Initiative (NWI).

The report also finds that Australians will need to become even more adept at dealing with drought, and communities, industries and the environment will have to adapt to lower water availability and more uncertainty.

For our part, water managers will need to be forward-looking, adaptive and agile in how they manage water resources to meet the community’s changing needs.

Read more here

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Australian Research Council Reverses New Funding Rule After Widespread Criticism

The Australian Research Council has reversed its decision to ban preprint material from being cited in funding applications, after widespread criticism from the academic community.

The ban, introduced by the federal government agency in the 2021 funding round of the Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards and Future Fellowships, was opposed by hundreds of Australian researchers, including the presidents of peak scientific bodies representing researchers in mathematics and the physical sciences.

Read more here

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Exciting PhD Opportunities – Removal of Contaminants from Groundwater

The University of Queensland is offering two exciting opportunities for PhD candidates to work on electrochemical removal of contaminants from groundwater for drinking water production in regional communities.

This is an amazing opportunity to work within a national R&D consortium to help deliver safe drinking water to regional communities.

Find out more and apply here

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Govt to Standardise University Commercialisation Contracts

The federal government intends to standardise intellectual property rights contracts between universities and businesses under a mandatory scheme for all federally funded research projects that engage in commercialisation.

The move is part of research commercialisation reforms designed to translate university work into economic outcomes, and follows feedback that Intellectual Property (IP) constraints remain a major barrier to negotiations.

Read more here

For an analysis, read commentary here from InnovationAus

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Water In the Circular Economy Framework Announced by World Bank

A new framework has been released by the World Bank that aims to enable developing nations to leapfrog to circular economies.

Called the Water in Circular Economy and Resilience Framework (WICER), its application could provide environmental, as well as social, economic and financial benefits.

I’ll leave it up to you to work out why we need another framework. But maybe, to help reduce inequity, we need new ways to talk and think about our economy.

Learn more here

Photo by Hans Reniers on Unsplash
The Water Research Foundation Announces Release of RFPs for New Research Projects

The WRF has released RFPs for three new projects. Proposals for the following projects are due Tuesday, November 10, 2021, at 7 AM AEST:

  • Demonstration of Innovation to Improve Pathogen Removal, Validation, and/or Monitoring in Carbon-Based Advanced Treatment (CBAT) for Potable Reuse.
  • Advancement of Densification to Implement and Achieve More Efficient BNR Processes: Granule Generation, Retention, and Management.
  • Holistic Wet Weather Management through Adaptive Volume and Pollutant Source Control at a Community Scale: Finding the Sweet Spot.

Find out more here

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European Utilities Unite to Drive Urban Water Innovation

Three major European water utilities collectively serving over 14 million people across Europe have united to help drive innovation in the urban water cycle.

Waternet from the Netherlands, Berliner Wasserbetriebe from Germany and SIAAP, the greater Paris Sanitation Authority have signed an MoU to accelerate cooperation on research, development and innovation.

Are there any opportunities in Australia, or internationally, for such close collaboration?

Read more here

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African Water Association Knowledge Management Platform

The African Water Association provides an amazing amount of interesting and open access information as part of their Knowledge Management Platform.

The Platform is a gateway to some important resources on water and sanitation in Africa. All resources are open access and aim to present advanced technologies, innovations and best practices as solutions to help African States to achieve SDG 6.

Sometimes what you need is already there.

Be transported to the Portal here

water supply and security
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Improving Tradeoff Understanding in Water Resource Planning

Some really interesting recently published research from the Water Research Foundation describes different drinking water supply systems and planning challenges, and how Multi-objective evolutionary algorithms (MOEA) tools were used to help analyze tradeoffs. Partners included: Colorado Springs Utilities, Melbourne Water Corporation, Tampa Bay Water, and Tarrant Regional Water District.

Read the report here

The Water Research Foundation have an incredible archive of research results and guidelines that can support nearly every facet of your water business. If your utility is a member of WSAA you have access to this rich resource. All you need to do is log-on to their website and set up an account.

Water Research Foundation

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One of Australia’s Largest Digital Meter Rollouts Hits New Milestone

South East Water is approaching a milestone 30,000 IoT-enabled digital meters in households across Melbourne’s south east, helping customers manage water use and detect leaks. So far the new technology has helped customers find leaks they didn’t know they had, saving on average $150 in unnecessary usage charges, and reducing water wastage.

The initiative is part of a broader metropolitan Melbourne joint digital metering trial with Greater Western Water and Yarra Valley Water.

Read more here

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New Material Creates Water From Humidity

A UNSW research team, led by Senior Lecturer at the School of Materials Science and Engineering, Dr Rakesh Joshi, has developed a nanomaterial with desiccant qualities, which can be used to create air-to-water generators, harvesting clean water from airborne humidity.

Read more here

Energy and the Circular economy

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Colac Plant Harnesses the Power of Waste

Barwon Water’s water reclamation plant in Colac is now running on clean, green and low-cost energy, as part of an innovative project that is turning waste into valuable resources.

Barwon Water has switched on the generator at the Colac plant that takes gas from organic trade waste from the nearby Australian Lamb Company and converts it into dispatchable renewable electricity.

The plant will also soon accept waste from Bulla Dairy Foods and will produce 5.5 gigawatt hours of energy – enough to completely power the Colac plant.

Not only does this significantly reduce the high energy cost of treating sewage and wastewater, helping to keep Barwon Water customers’ bills affordable, it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions from the site  by 6,300 tonnes per year.

Read more here

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Could the Circular Economy be all About Relationships?

There is some fantastic work happening in the EU at the moment within the Ultimate project. The project, led by KWR in the Netherlands, is focussed on developing case studies of stakeholder relationships that are leveraged to maximise circular economic principles.

Amazingly, the team are using a range of techniques, including immersive story-telling, to help engage stakeholders.

Read more here

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New Method to Create Green Hydrogen

Researchers from Curtin University have developed an innovative, cheaper, and more efficient electrocatalyst that can produce green hydrogen from water, an advancement that may potentially open an array of avenues for large-scale clean energy production.

The central innovation is a new capacity to use iron-sulphur as a catalyst to produce hydrogen, rather than more expensive ruthenium oxide.

Read more here

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Novel Functional Biochar Composites Help to Treat Wastewater

A team led by Prof. WU Zhengyan from the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) recently used novel functional biochar composites made from solid waste-red mud and corn straw to treat acidic dye wastewater.

Read more here

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Project Popeye: Spinach Helps Close the Loop on Brewery Wastewater

Together with Rhodes University, South African Breweries have developed a system to treat brewery wastewater and grow spinach. The unique value of Project Popeye is that the water and nutrient requirements of the crops are fully provided for by the wastewater generated in the brewing process.

Recovered water from the brewery’s effluent is treated using high rate algal ponding (HRAP) and constructed wetland technology. Water is then redirected back to the plant or on to help grow the spinach.

Read more here

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Combining Sunlight and Wastewater Nitrate to Make Ammonia

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago have created a solar-powered electrochemical reaction that not only uses wastewater to make ammonia – the second most-produced chemical in the world – but also achieves a solar-to-fuel efficiency that is ten times better than any other comparable technology.

The new technology may have great potential for allowing on-demand synthesis of fertilizers and could have an impact on the agricultural and energy sectors in developed and developing countries, and on efforts to reduce greenhouse gases from fossil fuels.

Read more here

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Pushing The Envelope For Wastewater Treatment Energy Savings

Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis have reportedly invented a device that produces electricity from wastewater while simultaneously filtering it for non-potable reuse.

The new device is a new take on the microbial fuel cell, which already uses bacteria to convert wastewater to energy, but with an added advantage in that it produces usable water as well.

Read more here

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Plastic Formulation Controls its Photochemical Fate in the Ocean
Research lead by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has demonstrated how sunlight transforms plastic into tens of thousands of dissolved compounds, the amount and composition of which are determined by the inititial plastic formulation.
Strap yourself on for some fairly fruity language, like ultrahigh resolution Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry. The research stems from the fact that the fate of of marine plastic remains largetly an open question.
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Sustainable Water Treatment System Inspired by Nature

Students from Monash Chemical Engineering have developed a prototype of a sustainable, stand-alone water treatment system that can remove persistent organic pollutants from industrial wastewater.

Developed by Ph.D. students Mostafa Dehghani and Mahdi Naseri and undergraduate student Clare Carew, the unique Stand Alone Sunflow System (SASS) uses easily accessible and affordable materials to provide a stand-alone that requires less labor and maintenance compared to the traditional systems and will treat persistent organic contaminants of polluted water in small and medium industries.

Read more here

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Successful Wastewater Treatment Using Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Algae

A team of researchers led by Shoolini University, India, has created a wastewater treatment technology based on algal bioremediation.

A novel microalgal strain Pseudochlorella pringsheimii  was assessed in a pilot-scale for phyco-mitigation of various pollutants in the raw urban wastewater. The results appeared promising; the technology achieved an 83.2% reduction in COD, 66.7% in alkalinity and 69.6% in hardness and almost complete reductions in total bacterial and total coliforms.

Read more here

A paper is also available on Elsivier

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From Septic to Sustainable: a Potential New Source of Fertilizer

Interesting research from Florida Tech where they have been using  high temperature, high-pressure process called hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) to convert waste from septic tanks to fertilizer.

The research is targeted toward reducing costs associated with septic tanks in rural communities.

Read more here

Liveability and health
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Breakthroughs in Detecting COVID Variants Through Wastewater

Researchers in Singapore have developed an open-source molecular detection method that is able to detect and quantify the B.1.1.7 (Alpha) variant of the virus. The breakthrough is being touted as paving the way for rapid, inexpensive surveillance of other COVID-19 variants in wastewater.

Read more here

Meanwhile, a recent study by researchers Rice University have also developed a method for detecting SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern in wastewater.

The researchers say that their approach is data driven and results in earlier detection and high resolution of variants of concern emergence patterns in wastewater data.

Read more here 

And if you are looking for an analysis of the effectiveness of detecting COVID in wastewater, this item from the Chemical & Engineering News gives the US perspective.

Read it here

Working with the community
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United Utilities Unveils Plans to Transform its Wastewater Network Monitoring
Work by Unitied Utiliies in the UK to upgrade wastewater network monitoring is more than just an upgrade. The company argue that it is part of a move away from a traditional reactive approach to ensure that the utility is managing the network, not the other way around.
In the traditional model, the utility would often not know there was an issue until it was reported by a custormer. By increasing their knowledge about what is happening in the network they are better placed to deal with issues before they become a problem for the customer.
Some interesting things
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New Research Converts Used Plastic Bottles into Vanilla Flavouring

In recent years, researchers have worked out how to effectively use enzymes to break down the polyethylene terephthalate polymer (PET) used in drink bottles into terephthalic acid (TA).

Read about it all here

Now, researchers at the University of Edinburgh have used an engineered E.Coli. to convert TA into small molecule vanillin, a flavour compound ubiquitous in the food and cosmetic industries, and an important bulk chemical.

According to the researchers, this is the first example of using a biological system to upcycle plastic waste into a valuable industrial chemical and it has very exciting implications for the circular economy.

Read the science here

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Calculating pi to 62.8 trillion decimal places

The University of Applied Sciences Graubünden is approaching its goal of breaking the two-year-old world record for calculating the number Pi. An important milestone was reached recently with the calculation of pi to 62.8 trillion decimal places in hexadecimal notation. The end result is expected in around two weeks.

In the competitive world of almost pointless calculations, the Swiss are keen to bring the record back from the US where it was snatched two years ago.

Read about it here and let Google translate

Enhancing Control of Norovirus in Water with Improved Detection Methods
6th October, 6am – 7am AEDT
This free-to-the-public webcast from the Water Research Foundation will share findings from the recently completed project Molecular Methods for Measuring Pathogen Viability/Infectivity (4774). This project focused on a crucial public health concern—the fate of infective human norovirus (HuNoV) and our ability to control and monitor it through potable reuse treatment.
Webinar: Tackling CECs in Drinking Water with Technology + Experience

6th October, 1:00am AEDT

Login to hear how advanced technologies combined with deep process knowledge and piloting expertise are addressing the world’s most complex constituents of emerging concern in potable water and wastewater, including:

  • PFAS
  • NDMA
  • 1,4-Dioxane
  • Pharmaceutical micropollutants
  • Pesticides
  • Disinfection Byproducts
Emerging Contaminants Workshop 2021

26 October 2021, 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM AEDT

The second annual Emerging Contaminants Workshop will focus on the chemical risks of the future and will feature international as well as local presenters.

Keynote speakers include Dr Chelsea Rochman, University of Toronto and Dr Emma Schymanski, University of Luxembourg.

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Aquatech Breakouts Make You Part of the Conversation

Aquatech are holding one more ‘BreakOut’ webinar as we get closer to their November conference in Amsterdam.
The BreakOuts are designed in tandem with the key themes: water quality, digital, desalination & water reuse, industrial/corporate water and resource recovery. Each BreakOut ends with a round table where you can be part of the conversation.
12 Oct  –  Rewarding innovations
Asia-Pacific Smart Water Utilities 2021
 10 – 11 November 2021, Singapore

The Asia-Pacific Smart Water Utilities 2021 conference in Singapore is currently seeking presentations that are broadly focused on the following:

  • Making an economic assessment for water utilities development
  • Integrating smart water technologies into existing water infrastructure
  • Strategies for managing and reducing water leakage across the network
  • Looking at real-time data and cutting-edge communication technologies
  • New technologies and know-how in IoT and AI for network automation
  • End-user case studies and how to develop an optimal network

Of particular interest are presentations focused on the latest results and experiences in water leakage.

‘Embracing Positive Change Through Disruption’ – QWater’21 Conference
25 & 26 November 2021.
The Australian Water Association has called for papers for the Qwater’21 Conference, in Brisbane and hosted by Seqwater.
The conference deliberately seeks to provide a forum where technical learnings are celebrated and personal growth is commended with papers and presentations targeted at enhancing our industry through SHARED experiences, CONNECTED membership, and INSPIRED individuals.

African Water Association Knowledge Management Platform

Sharing Africa’s water and sanitation sector knowledge
Australian Government – GrantConnect
Forecast and current Australian Government grant opportunities
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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.

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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