December Research News
Research Newsletter – December 2022
Welcome to our December 2022 research and innovation newsletter. Hopefully, in this issue you will find much to keep you informed, intrigued and, occasionally, make you smile. 
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 January 2023.
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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Experts Raise Alarm Over WHO’s ‘Weak’ PFAS Limits for Drinking Water

More than 110 scientists and regulators worldwide are raising a public alarm over what they label “weak” PFAS drinking water limits proposed by the World Health Organization. 


The limits would allow far more PFAS in drinking water than what is allowed or proposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, most US states, and some agencies within the EU.


Read more at the Guardian

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Water Corp Moves into Energy Generation

Western Australia’s Water Corporation has announced that it has secured development rights for the Flat Rocks Wind Farm Stage 2, one of Western Australia’s largest renewable wind energy projects.


Up to 24 of the project’s 200m high wind turbines are expected to generate a quarter of the total renewable energy Water Corporation needs to achieve its target of net zero emissions across all its operations by 2035.


Read more at Water Corporation

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Chief Scientist Plan for Free Research Access for All

Australia’s chief scientist will this year propose a world-first model that would shake up the multi-billion-dollar publishing business so Australian readers don’t pay a cent.


The proposed open access model would give every Australian access to research without fee – not just researchers – with a new implementation body negotiating a deal with the publishers who have historically kept the work behind paywalls.


Read more at Innovation Aus


The idea is not without its critics 

New Research to Support First Nations Remote Communities
WSAA has published a new review of the management of drinking water supplies in First Nations remote communities around Australia.
The results make for sobering reading in an age where we mostly take clean potable water for granted. 
Importantly, the report recommends that government establishes a multi-year innovation investment fund to help develop and implement emerging programs and technologies to create specific treatment solutions for remote communities.
While we’ve been thinking it’s all about the science, it turns out that innovation, research and development can have a strong role in supporting a fairer and more equitable society that recognises the rights of First Nations People to basic services.
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New content on Water360
We’ve added a new topic page on Water for Remote First Nations Communities in Australia . This page includes links to WSAA’s new report Closing the Water for People and Communities Gap and links to all the individual case studies in that report as well as other
If you’ve missed an issue of this newsletter you will find all the back copies for the last 18 months here.
We’ve also finalised the move from our old Research Access Portal (RAP) site. All the information from that site is now available on Water360. The RAP will now be turned off, so you may need to adjust any favourites you have set.
The last resource to be moved over was the Smart Water Fund database. If you don’t know what that is then it’s worth having a look. It contains the results of applied research funded by the Victorian Government from 2002 until 2017. It’s a unique archive of some fantastic research – Smart Water Fund.

water supply and security

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Arizona State University to Lead Water Research Initiative
An interesting move by the State of Arizona to fund Arizona State University to lead the Arizona Water Innovation Initiative, a $40 million plan to invest in solutions for Arizona’s diminishing water supply.
The University’s task will be to involve industrial, municipal, agricultural, tribal and international partners in its solutions to find new strategies and deploy technologies for water conservation, reuse and infrastructure.
The timeline for the work includes a one-year “innovation sprint” and a four-year implementation period.

Energy and the Circular economy

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Floating Solar Panels Track the Sun

Portuguese company Solaris Float, has constructed a circular island of solar panels that bobs on top of water, generating renewable energy on a lake in the south-west of the Netherlands.


While floating solar panels are not new, the innovation in this prototype is that the panels meticulously track and follow the Sun as it moves across the sky, to catch as many rays as possible.


There is more in this article, it also gives a basic analysis of the state of the market in floating solar panels. 


Read more on the BBC

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Magnetic Material Mops Up Microplastics in Water

Researchers at RMIT University have found an innovative way to rapidly remove hazardous microplastics from water using magnets.

The team says they have developed adsorbents, in the form of a powder, that remove microplastics 1,000 times smaller than those currently detectable by existing wastewater treatment plants.


The researchers are currently looking for industry collaborators to help take the next steps.


Read more at the National Tribune

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Turning Wastewater Into Fertiliser – a More Sustainable Approach

Research from Drexel University in Philadelphia has identified significant potential economic benefits from implementing air-stripping technology at wastewater treatment plants to produce ammonia sulfate fertiliser.


Findings of the life-cycle analysis show that air-stripping emits about five to 10 times less greenhouse gas than traditional methods and uses about five to 15 times less energy.


Read more at PhysOrg

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Innovation in Practice – New Bracket Leads to Safer Operations

A Southern Rural Water metering officer has designed a water meter bracket that will improve the roll out of automated reading of water meters across the state.


Southern Rural Water started automating water meter reading devices across its region in 2015, but always struggled to find a consistent way to install them. 


Read more in the Campaspe News

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Egg Whites Can Remove Microplastics

Researchers at Princeton Engineering have developed an aerogel from egg whites that can be used to remove sand and microplastics.


The egg whites are freeze dried and then heated to 900 degrees celsius in an environment without oxygen. What remains is a structure of interconnected strands of carbon fibres and sheets of graphene. 


The researchers claim that the resulting material will remove salt and microplastics from seawater with 98 percent and 99 percent efficiency, respectively.


Read more at Lab Manager

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New Filtration Methods Remove PFAS From Drinking Water
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have compared methods to filter PFAS from drinking water and determined their effectiveness at large scale.
The team compared granular-activated carbon and anion exchange resins and systematically evaluated how well each of these removed different types of PFAS in pilot municipal water treatment plants for 15 months, concluding that the resins were more effective in removing most of the tested PFAS.
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A New, Better Way to Desalinate Water

A team of researchers led by King Abdullah University of Science & Technology has shown how ultrathin polymer-based ordered membranes can efficiently remove salt from brine and seawater, offering a potential alternative for current desalination systems.


Using chemical vapor deposition, the researchers have developed a technique that helps control the growth of two-dimensional conjugated polymer frameworks into ultrathin carbon films.



Photo by Ivan Bandura on Unsplash
Novel Waste Treatment Efficiently Converts Sewage to Biogas

Researchers from Washington State University have tested a pre-treatment technology, adding an extra step to typical treatments and using oxygen-containing high-pressure steam to break down sewage sludge.


They found that they were able to convert more than 85% of the organic material to biogas. 


Read more at Water Online

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Autonomous Robot Finds its Way Through Pipe Networks to Find Leaks
Researchers from the University of Leeds have developed a new robot that can find its way through narrow pipe networks, relaying images of damage or obstructions to human operators.
Weighing just 70g, it’s small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and can explore pipes as narrow as 7.5cm. 
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Researchers Engineer Bacteria to Detect Pollutants in Water
Researchers from Rice University in the US have reprogrammed cells in Escherichia coli (E.coli) to release an electrical current that can sense pollutants quicker than traditional methods.
The sensor, shaped like a lollipop, is made up of engineered e.coli, attached to electrodes and encapsulated in a biofilm made from red seaweed.
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A Single-Step Water Treatment for Arsenic Decontamination

Researchers from Imperial College London have been working with the UK’s national synchrotron on a new material (TiO2/Fe2O3 nanomaterial) that combines photocatalytic oxidation with adsorption and provides a one-step treatment for contaminated water.


So far, they have patented the method for use in arsenic contamination. While multi step methods already exist, this method offers a degree of simplification and treatment in one step.


Read more at PhysOrg

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Nanoscale Structures Improve Reverse Osmosis Seawater Desalination

A multinational team of researchers led by the Chinese Academy of Sciences have developed a process that improves the performance of polyamide membranes through the introduction of a crown ether interlayer.


The polyamide membrane has dominated the market for desalination applications, but the introduction of nanoscale structures may represent a leap forward in technology.


Read more at PhysOrg

Liveability and health
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The Cleanest Drinking Water is Recycled

New research from Stanford University claims that treated wastewater can be more dependable and less toxic than common tap water sources including rivers and groundwater.
In a caparison, between purified wastewater and conventional drinking water samples, purified samples, particularly when treated by reverse osmosis, were comparable to benchmark groundwater samples.
Working with the community
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Atlantic First Nations Water Authority Becomes First Indigenous Water Utility in Canada

After years of discussion, the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority made history by becoming the first Indigenous water utility in Canada.


Under an agreement, Atlantic First Nations Water Authority will handle the operation, maintenance, and capital upgrades of all water and wastewater systems in participating First Nation communities.


The authority will assume responsibility for up to 4,500 households and businesses in about 17 First Nation communities, or 60 per cent of Atlantic Canada’s on-reserve population.


Read more here at Atlantic News

Some interesting things
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We Now Know Why Some Poos Float and Others Sink
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota claim that experiments with mouse and human faeces provide the most definitive proof yet that gas-producing gut microbes are responsible for making faeces float. 
Importantly, the researchers couldn’t say whether it is healthier to do floaters or sinkers, only that it probably depends on exactly which gut bacteria are producing the gas.
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Rubidium Vapour Makes a Good Quantum Memory

Researchers at the University of Basel, Switzerland have demonstrated that a glass bulb filled with rubidium gas (a vapour cell) that receives incoming photons transporting quantum information, stores that information temporarily and then produces new photons to carry the information away.


The process is central to efforts to build a quantum­ Internet. Unlike classical data, quantum information cannot be copied or amplified, and while the classical Internet transmits data via mature technologies like routers and switches that link cobwebs of wires and cables, the building blocks of the quantum Internet are still under construction.


Read about it here at Physics World


Read about the quantum internet here

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Hydrogen-Producing Rooftop Solar Panels Nearing Commercialization

Researchers from KU Leuven in Belgium have created a hydrogen panel that directly converts water vapor from the air into hydrogen gas, with the help of sunlight. The researchers claim that it produces 250 litres of hydrogen per day, at an efficiency of 15%.


Specifically, electricity is produced by the top layer solar panel, with a system of tubes underneath, where the hydrogen is produced from water molecules extracted directly from the air using a membrane.


Read more her at PV Magazine

Quantifying the Contribution of Disinfection By-products to the Toxicity of Wastewaters Purified for Potable Reuse
2nd December 7-8 am AEDT
This public webcast will present the findings of a Water Research Foundation project that examined the toxicity of a series of representative conventional drinking water samples compared to water associated with potable reuse operations.
Evaluation of Contaminant Removal in Decentralized Water Reuse Systems by Non-targeted Analysis
6 December, 7-8 am AEDT
This webcast will present the results of a Water Research Foundation project Enhanced Evaluation of the Removal of Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Decentralized Water Reuse Systems by Non-Targeted Analysis.
Victorian Integrated Water Management Forums: Charting the collaborative journey from 2017
5th December, 10.00-11.30am AEDT
Online Webinar
  • Abby Farmer (Senior Manager, Metropolitan Integrated Water Management, DELWP)
  • Kimjan Achilles (Senior Planner, IWM Sub-Catchment Planning, Yarra Valley Water)
The Integrated Water Management Forums were established in Victoria in 2017 to shift the way water, land use planning and urban development opportunities are understood and undertaken in Victoria. 

This session seeks to explore how the Forums came to be and what mechanisms have ensured they continue to endure.
National Biosolids Conference – Champions for Sustainability.
8 – 9th February 2023, Aerial, University of Technology, Sydney
The biennial Australian & New Zealand Biosolids Partnership’s National Biosolids Conference is returning to Sydney in 2023, with the theme Champions for Sustainability. Held over two days, this conference will examine key developments in the industry with a focus on the role of industry, regulators and community as champions for sustainable biosolids management and end-use.
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2nd SWAN APAC Alliance Workshop

23 – 23rd February 2023, Metropolis Southbank, Melbourne


Join the leading, smart water event in Asia-Pacific


The first day of this conference will feature a full-day Workshop with keynotes, insightful panels and interactive roundtable discussions on the practical value of the smart water journey and how we can best support each other.


The evening will include a drinks reception with canapés. The second day will include organised utility study tours to Greater Western Water and South East Water (limited spots).


Register Here

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Early bird registration now open!

22 – 23rd February, Sydney Olympic Park

Your opportunity to hear from water industry professionals and academics from across Australia to discuss the next game-changing research.

WaterRA presents Australia’s leading scientific and technical conference on water research and innovation, Next Water’23, bringing together water industry professionals and academics from across Australia to discuss the next game-changing research.


This two-day conference will feature keynote and invited speakers, scientific and technical presentations, case studies, workshops and panel sessions to support our industry in ensuring public health and safeguarding the sustainability of our water resources.


Read more and register here


African Water Association Knowledge Management Platform

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

Click hear to start your Journey