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Eric

Eric Vanweydeveld

Year of Award: 2018 Award State: Northern Territory Environment > Water
To investigate proven low-cost innovative water treatment solutions for regional & remote Australia - United Arab Emirates, Oman, Israel
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While there is almost universal access to drinking water across Australia, many small regional and remote communities often experience inadequate water quality and water security.

Existing advanced water treatment solutions, designed for larger cities, are not an economically viable solution for replication across Australia’s hundreds of remote communities and small regional centres. In addition to a considerable technological gap between urban and remote systems, there is consequent social and economic inequity and disadvantage.

Significant differences between urban and remote contexts (economies of scale, logistics challenges, long distances, etc.) don’t allow for transfer of innovation from urban systems to remote systems. There is potential for new insights to be gained from small scale systems overseas.

My motivation to apply for a Churchill Fellowship was to discover what other nations, facing similar water scarcity challenges, are doing successfully to manage their small regional and remote communities’ water supplies and learn about their expertise and experience in dealing with similar challenges (remote, small-scale and water-scarce).

The Middle East presents an interesting comparison to Australia because it faces similar water scarcity challenges, provides water services delivery to a large number of small regional and remote communities and is at the forefront of a series of water innovations in operational practices, technologies and institutions. 

I spent eight weeks in the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Oman investigating innovative water treatment technologies and water management solutions and assessing the value for regional and remote communities in Australia, in providing potential alternatives to improve water quality and to achieve water security.

The key findings from my experiences in Israel, Oman and the United Arab Emirates have been developed into nine recommendations that may be applicable to regional and remote communities in Australia and are worthy of further exploration and discussion across the water industry.

  1. Numerous innovative water treatment technologies have been developed by Israel’s water sector in recent years and they could have major benefits for remote and regional Australia including enhanced operating performance, no reliance on chemicals, simplicity and low operating and maintenance costs.
  2. High-performance brackish water desalination technologies are becoming more practical, economical and energy-efficient and can represent a good option for regional and remote water systems facing water quality and water scarcity issues.
  3. Renewable energy desalination, which combines energy efficient desalination technology with renewable energy power, is showing great promise to supply affordable, reliable and safe drinking water to regional and remote areas.
  4. Establishing smart artificial groundwater recharge systems by using flash floods and water run-off to preserve and enhance groundwater resources as a practical measure to store and augment the availability of fresh water for future use and to enhance adaptative water management in response to climate change.
  5. The use of smart data collection and management tools, using leading-edge technologies, to drive a comprehensive, probabilistic and integrated management approach has potential to revolutionise the way regional and remote water sources and services are managed.
  6. Fostering the development of new technologies specifically designed for regional and remote water supply systems through public-private partnerships using experimental sites on existing operational systems to drive operational efficiencies and improve resilience of water supply systems.
  7. An holistic approach to long-term planning for regional and remote water systems is necessary to mitigate risks associated with highly variable and changing economic, environmental and political contexts and to ensure security of supply at least cost.
  8. Developing a water conscious culture in regional and remote Australia through extensive education and public awareness campaigns is a necessary step to reduce the need for additional infrastructure, establish effective water management under water scarcity conditions and contribute to the development of water security.
  9. Establishing a central, independent water body may assist to provide strategic guidance about future water needs and ensure a coordinated approach to security of supply, optimise water management under conditions of scarcity by sharing data and knowledge and facilitate collaboration across the Northern Territory’s water sector, including governmental agencies.

Keywords: Water treatment, water management, water security, innovation, water treatment technologies, desalination, demand management, water conscious culture

 

 

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