September Research News
Research Newsletter – September 2023
Welcome to our September 2023 Research and Innovation Newsletter.
This newsletter continues to show that there is no shortage of great innovation helping to improve our lives and helping to ensure that water supports thriving communities into the future.
If you see any interesting articles, projects or news about new research that others might be interested in, please send to [email protected] – it could even make the next newsletter due in October 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
Image from WSAA
New WSAA Progress Report
Blue x Green = Thriving

WSAA has released a follow-up to our visionary Blue + Green = Liveability report from 2019. This new report, Blue x Green = Thriving, provides an updated vision for the water industry, expanding on water’s role in thriving communities.


The new vision is not just about more liveable communities, the vision includes water’s role in stimulating economic productivity, and protecting our precious ecosystems.


This is important new language to engage the community, and new language for the community to engage with the water industry.


Read more at WSAA

Image from Soth East Water
Dr Li Gao Receives Prestigious ARC Fellowship

The Australian Research Council (ARC) has named Dr Li Gao, Strategic Research Manager at South East Water, on its list of 50 inaugural Industry Fellows nationwide.


The focus of Dr Gao’s work is ammonium recovery, where he is working on the problem of excess ammonium in wastewater, a key threat to the environment due to its nitrogen content.


Interestingly, ammonium is the second-most used chemical in the world, and it takes 2% of the world’s energy each year to produce. In the water sector, ammonium removal uses approximately 50% of treatment plant energy.


Read more at South East Water

Image from the report
Submission to Review of the National Hydrogen Strategy

Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) has provided a submission to the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water’s review of the National Hydrogen Strategy.


“Without a national water strategy, there is no national hydrogen strategy”. Water will be a critical ingredient for the future hydrogen industry – yet it is often taken for granted.

The National Hydrogen Strategy should be a robust, informative reference on all aspects of hydrogen, with clear guidance for proponents on how governments and communities expect hydrogen to evolve. This is an important step towards a clean energy future that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.


We are proud to have contributed our expertise to this important national conversation with 16 recommendations to address the need for better, proactive collaboration with water providers and governments.


Read more at WSAA

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Navigating Water’s Role in The Green Hydrogen Economy
The team at GHD have developed a guide to ‘Navigating water’s role in the green hydrogen economy’.
Based on the summary of a four-part webinar series, the guide aims to provide advice to the water industry on how to integrate the hydrogen push into strategy, plan for demand uncertainty, the shift in water supply challenges and hydrogen’s connection to the circular economy.
Webinar – Developing an LGBTQ+ Inclusion Benchmark for Our Water Industry

Wednesday, 20 September 2023 – 11:00am to 12:00pm AEST


The AWEI (Australian Workplace Equality Index) is the recognised and comprehensive benchmark for LGBTQ+ inclusion in Australia, led by Pride in Diversity.


There is an opportunity for the Water Industry to have its own benchmark next year, allowing us to compare inclusion across similar organisations and utilities. It will also allow us to pinpoint key areas we can address within our industry.


Christopher Nelson, Associate Director for Pride in Diversity will be running a session to explain AWEI, the process for getting our own benchmark and answer any questions.


We invite all members of Pride in Water and HR and Diversity + Inclusion representatives to attend this important session.


Click here to add an invitation to your calendar


Click Here to join the discussion directly on Zoom

Image from DALL. E AI
WSAA Biochar Seminar 2023
Key Insights
WSAA recently conducted a biochar seminar with water utilities, policy makers and regulators from across Australia and New Zealand, and can now provide the key insights from that session.
Our biochar seminar went deep into the policy, regulatory and market challenges and opportunities behind this technology and its potential to revolutionise agriculture, land management and carbon sequestration practices.
Also, if you’re interested in Biosolids and PFAS, the ANZBP have released a new factsheet to provide interested parties with information about our understanding and management of per and polyfluoroalkylated substances (PFAS) in biosolids.

Energy and the Circular economy

Image from report in Nature
Quantifying Earth System Boundaries
Researchers from across the globe have collaborated on new study that defines a set of Earth System Boundaries that consider safety and justice as core elements in the stability of the planet.
Co-authored by over forty leading natural and social scientists from the Earth Commission, the study hopes to provide a scientific foundation for assessing the stability and resilience of the planet and the connection therein with human wellbeing.
Image from WaterNSW website
Innovations in Water Monitoring at Warragamba Dam
WaterNSW is trialling the use of new technologies to collect ultra-high spatial resolution imagery and help monitor algal events.


Working in collaboration with UNSW, CSIRO, SA Water and Water Research Australia, the project produces images that assist researchers to understand seasonal patterns of algal events across the lake and help identify contributors to algal spread.


Read more at WaterNSW

Image from AI
Using Wastewater for Irrigation

Researchers from Oregon State University are developing a technology to convert wastewater into a product that would simultaneously irrigate and fertilise crops.


The process uses a two-stage, hybrid membrane filtration technology to treat the liquid discharge from anaerobic digesters used in water treatment plants and on some larger farms. 


Read more at WaterOnline

Image from article
Cleaning Water With ‘Smart Rust’ and Magnets
Researchers from Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg have developed special iron oxide nanoparticles that can attract many substances, including oil, nano – and microplastics, as well as the herbicide glyphosate.
Because the iron oxide nanoparticles are magnetic, they can, the researchers claim, be easily removed from water with a magnet along with the pollutants.
The team is also reporting that they’ve tweaked the particles to trap estrogen hormones that are potentially harmful to aquatic life.
Image from article
Microalgae Can Detoxify Methylmercury
Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have discovered that some forms of phytoplankton are good at degrading Methylmercury, a potent neurotoxin.
Methylmercury is a very toxic form of mercury that is formed when bacteria react with mercury in water, soil and vegetation. 
The amazing thing here is that phytoplankton are known to introduce Methylmercury into the food chain – however researchers found that some forms of phytoplankton can also detoxify Methylmercury.
Image from article at aarhusvand
Nitrous Oxide Levels Monitored at Wastewater Treatment Plants In Europe and Australia
Researchers from Melbourne Water, the UK’s  Severn Trent and Aarhus Vand from Denmark have collaborated on a project to monitor nitrous oxide emissions.
Nitrous oxide (N₂O) is a greenhouse gas almost 300 times more harmful than CO2 and makes a substantial contribution to global warming.
The purpose of the research was to learn more about the variations in emissions and how to reduce them. Interestingly, the research found that daily N₂O levels were almost identical at all three sites.
Image from article
Mussels Inspire New Membrane
Researchers from the UK, China, South Korea, Singapore, Australia and Belgium have developed a new kind of membrane that separates chemicals within wastewater so effectively that they can be reused. 
The membrane is made from the polymer polyethyleneimine (PEI) and polydopamine (PDA), a compound which mussels excrete and use to stick to rocks or wood in wet conditions.
The researchers claim that the membrane can achieve separation efficiencies of more than 99%, while using less energy at a lower cost.
Image form Bing image generator
Researchers Develop Novel Antifouling Nanofiltration Membranes 
Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have proposed a strategy for achieving high separation selectivity and strong fouling resistance in nanofiltration membranes.
The proposed system used the strong affinity of ionic liquid to the polyamide layer and the low diffusion steric hindrance of ethanol to induce polyamide swelling and achieve deep grafting of polyethyleneimine. This also allowed for targeted filling of larger pores, resulting in a narrower pore size distribution.
Image from paper
New Membrane Filtering Technology

Researchers at the University of Colorado have developed a new membrane water filtration system based around air bubbles.


Membrane filters generally use pressure to force water through a sieve to separate out unwanted particles and contaminants.


The new membrane system uses a tiny layer of air bubbles to distil the water rather than sieving it. This change makes the system more permeable and better at removing unwanted impurities than reverse osmosis systems.


Read more at WaterOnline

Image from Oregon State University
Oregon State Researchers Develop Novel Technique for Sniffing Out Toxic Algae Blooms

Researchers at Oregon State University have developed a new way to monitor the danger associated with algae blooms: “sniffing” the water for gases associated with toxins.


The researchers found that certain combinations of volatile organic compounds released by algae can serve as indicator for microcystin, a toxin produced at varying levels during blooms of cyanobacteria, commonly known as blue-green algae.


Read more at WaterOnline

Liveability and health
Image of coloured balloons from the ABC
Balloon Releases, Cotton Buds with Plastic Stems to be Banned in Queensland from September

The Queensland Government will ban range of single-use items from the start of September as the state government weighs up outlawing even more products – including plastic cups – from next year. 


Importantly, the ban will include the use of cotton buds with plastic stems, that cause problems for water systems in terms of blocked pumps and valves. 


A number of other states and territories in Australia also have plans to ban plastic stemmed cotton buds, including the ACT, New South Wales and Victoria.


Read more at the ABC

Image from WSAA

Indigenous Data Sovereignty

Some really interesting details about the legal and cultural considerations of Indigenous Data Sovereignty.
Indigenous Data Sovereignty (IDSov) is the right that First Nations peoples have to manage the collection, ownership and use of data about them, their Country, knowledge and resources.
If you’d like to know more:
There’s a book here: Indigenous Data Sovereignty: Toward an agenda  and it’s free to read online.
There’s a video here at the Yoorrook Justice Commission
And there’s a group here called the Maiam nayri Wingara Indigenous Data Sovereignty Collective with plenty of resources.
Some interesting things
Image from article
US Laboratory Uses Seawater to Capture & Store CO2
A climate technology startup founded by former Google X, Tesla, and SolarCity executives has begun operating a marine carbon dioxide removal system in the US.
The system, which is roughly the size of a shipping container, processes seawater from Sequim Bay in Washington. The seawater passes through a series of membranes, which act like a filter, removing acid from the water. Once the acid is removed, the seawater can absorb additional carbon dioxide from the air and store it as bicarbonate in the water.
Image from report

Suntan Your Mushrooms to Get Your Vitamin D

Some really interesting research in food science has shown that if you place one mushroom in the sun for fifteen minutes, with the gills facing upwards, it can provide the same amount of vitamin D as a low dose vitamin D supplement.
Mushrooms are low in Vitamin D in their natural habitat, but on exposure to UV light, a sterol compound called Ergosterol is converted into Vitamin D.
Image from article
Radical Optionality
An interesting proposition that to succeed in an environment of high uncertainty, greater short-term pressure, and tighter resource constraints, companies must become even better and more efficient at developing options for future advantage while continuing to perform in the present.

Embracing radical optionality, the authors contend, will allow firms to turn uncertainty from a disruptive threat into a potential source of advantage.


Read more at the Harvard Business Review

qldwater Annual Forum 2023
5th, 6th and 7th September, Toowoomba, Qld
This event is not your typical conference. There is no call for papers, the sessions are sourced based on issues that are of strategic importance for our industry.
The program aims to engage both our industry and key regulatory agencies and to proactively address our challenges.
AWA – SA State Conference 2023
21 Sep 2023, 8.30am – 6.00pm
Adelaide Convention Centre
The theme for the Conference is Water – The Foundation for Sustainable Development.
CECE 2023 Conference
(Circular Economy for Climate and Environment)
26-27 September 2023
Aerial Function Centre, University of Technology Sydney 
The Circular Economy For Climate and Environment Conference will be held in Sydney in September 2023. Held over two days, the conference will explore recent advances in technologies and industrial approaches with a focus on Nutrient recovery and reuse for sustainable futures.
8th ANZ Cyanobacteria Workshop
26th -27th September 2023,
Monash University, Melbourne
Held every two years, this event showcases new research advancements and provides a forum for water supply managers, health officials, ecologists, modellers, toxicologists and research experts in cyanobacterial identification and management to meet and discuss all things cyanobacteria.
AWA – NT Water in the Bush Conference and Awards Dinner 2023
12 Oct 2023, 1:00pm – 5:00pm ACST
Darwin Convention Centre
Now in its 34th year, our Water in the Bush Conference is the Territory’s premier annual water conference which connects water professionals, the community and industry.
Global Nature Positive Summit

The Australian and New South Wales Labor governments have announced that Sydney will be the host for the first Global Nature Positive Summit in early October 2024.

The Summit will bring together delegates from around the world including ministers, environment groups, Aboriginal peoples, business, scientists and community leaders, to consider how to supercharge investment in projects that repair nature.


It seems that details are still a bit sketchy, but you can read more about the Summit at DCCEEW.

9 Nov 2023, 8.30am – 5.30pm AEST
Hilton Brisbane
The QWater’23 Conference themed “Making This Decade Matter” will focus on the critical period ahead for water in Queensland
AWA – Connected by Water
28 February – 1 March 2024 in Perth
Call for Papers is now open
This conference will bring together a national and international audience to work together on sustainable water management in Western Australia.

More info


Research Data Australia

Find, access, and re-use data from over one hundred Australian research organisations

Australian Government – GrantConnect
Forecast and current Australian Government grant opportunities

Amazing Trove of Water Industry Research!

UK Water Industry Research have made their trove of research available without charge.


Click here to go to the UKWIR library


Click here to start your journey