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Curtin water quality research centre

curtin water quality research centre

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The Water Corporation and Curtin University of Technology have combined to establish a world class water research centre at the university.

Corporation Chief Executive Officer, Jim Gill said today at the launch that the Curtin Water Quality Research Centre would provide a substantial boost for water research in general and water quality in particular.

Dr Gill said that the Corporation would provide 0,000 annually from its research budget, initially for five years, to ensure the establishment of the new centre. The Corporation would also commit staff to the centre. Curtin would contribute 0,000 each year and additional funding would come from grants and research-generated income.

"This new centre will be internationally recognised and will become a major contributor in a very practical way to improved water supplies, both in Western Australia, Australia and overseas," said Dr Gill. "It will operate through an alliance partnership that will closely involve both researchers and the end users.

"The focus will very much be on the application of the new centre's research findings. It will foster innovative research, training and advancement of knowledge and applied solutions to areas of importance to the water industry. It will also act as a broker, bringing in worldwide expertise as required to address particular research needs.

"I am confident the resulting practical solutions will also be applied to other water supply agencies both nationally and internationally."

Dr Gill said the close involvement of Water Corporation staff in the centre's research work would ensure that its output would be of significant practical value to the water industry in its efforts to continually improve the quality of supplies.

Curtin Vice-Chancellor, Professor Lance Twomey said that to achieve maximum effectiveness the centre would work collaboratively with national and international industry and research entities such as the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Quality and Treatment and the Chemistry Centre of Western Australia which will shortly relocate to Curtin.

"The management and development of our water resources is and will remain a major area of importance for the Western Australian community," said Professor Twomey. "I am delighted that Curtin is continuing its tradition of participating in innovative alliances that make a significant contribution to the wider community.

"I am sure that the wealth of expertise both within Curtin and the Water Corporation will ensure that the centre has a lasting impact on the future of water resources and supply in this State."

Dr Gill said that the new centre would boost the Corporation's efforts to comply with more demanding national regulations and guidelines on drinking water quality. It would also assist in research into opening up new groundwater resources through the use of marginal supplies, would foster increased reuse of treated wastewater and could facilitate the introduction of innovative processes such as storage of water in underground aquifers until needed during dry periods.

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curtin water quality research centre

In Perth, drinking water has traditionally been sourced from surface water dams and groundwater reserves. But these supplies have significantly diminished since the 1980s through the combined impacts of rapid urban growth and protracted drought conditions. And with the southwest of Australia expected to suffer more severely than other parts of the continent from the impact of climate change, the situation is only expected to worsen.

The Water Corporation of Western Australia has been intensively exploring diversified options for boosting Perth’s drinking water, focusing on climate-independent sources. The most innovative option has been to use advanced treated wastewater to replenish groundwater resources impacted by the drying climate.

To help with their investigations, they turned to Curtin experts, including water chemist Dr Cynthia Joll.

The CWQRC is also involved in a wide range of fundamental and applied research into other water quality issues. For Joll, who’s been fascinated by water quality chemistry for many years, it’s been particularly thrilling as a scientist to be involved in work of such high public significance. “To help bring it to full scale has been fabulous,” she says, adding that the success of the research means the work of the CWQRC is creating interest in other regions around the world that are already, or are anticipating, experiencing drinking water limitations.

Ocean colour image from the MERIS instrument, European Space Agency (ESA).

Engineers at Curtin are also working on a water supply issue. As drinking water is pumped into cities, or wastewater is pumped out, small bubbles can form as the result of a drop in pressure from falling supplies in reservoirs or fluctuations in wastewater usage.

At its peak, millions of bubbles pop within milliseconds of each other.

“This popping eats away at the metal on the ‘impeller’ blades in the pump,” says McKee. As a result, this phenomenon decreases the pump’s ability to apply pressure and push the liquid in the desired direction. “It sounds like you’re pumping gravel.”

The process makes holes in the impeller blades, causing the pumps to seize up. But by the time technicians can detect the telltale sounds, the damage has already begun, says McKee. “It can cost many thousands of dollars to take a pump offline and change an impeller.” He says their approach has been to try to detect the start of the process, called cavitation, before damage becomes significant.

Building on the results of work by a University of Western Australia colleague, and in collaboration with Queensland University of Technology researchers, the Curtin University engineers placed accelerometers (sensors which measure acceleration associated with vibrations) on pumps in Queensland towns.

“By 2060, as much as 20% of Perth’s drinking water is likely to be supplied by groundwater replenishment.”

Ocean colour image from the MODIS instrument, NASA.

The push to apply research outcomes is strong across Curtin, including in the field of marine and freshwater research. Much of this work is carried out at the university under the auspices of the Australian Sustainable Development Institute, which brings Curtin researchers together on research proposals that relate to sustainable development.

“It’s all about tackling the key issues facing society,” explains the Institute’s Executive Director, Mike Burbridge. “We know that there’s increasing pressure on water and water resources. The cross-disciplinary approach is hugely important at Curtin, but especially in the sustainability space.

“It sets us apart from other marine science groups around Australia. We seem to have carved quite a niche for doing that within the Southern Hemisphere and beyond,” says Dr Christine Erbe, Director of the CMST. Erbe is working with a multidisciplinary team at the CMST within Curtin’s physics department in the area of bioacoustics to monitor and analyse the sounds made by marine animals and people at the beach (see News, p6).

Perth drinking water will be replenished with reclaimed and treated wastewater.

In one project, researchers are looking at how to detect sharks in the water using off-the-shelf sonar systems – the type used by private and commercial fishermen that work by emitting acoustic signals reflected off objects in the water. “Many of us have engineering and physics backgrounds and apply that to biology,” says Erbe.


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