While substantial progress has been made in increasing access to clean drinking water and sanitation, billions of people—mostly in rural areas—still lack these basic services.
– United Nations

Sustainable management of water is a major focus for Victoria University. We strive to improve water quality, develop effective wastewater treatment and increase water-use efficiency through research, teaching, and university infrastructure.

We undertake applied research in drinking water, wastewater, recycled water, stormwater and industrial water applications, providing solutions for industry and communities.

Our on-campus pool includes rainwater harvesting and backwash treatment, which saves approximately 2 million litres of water annually.

Goal 6 Clean water and sanitation, (water glass icon)

Research projects & engagement 2020-21

Conflicts between territories over water sharing arrangements may become more severe due to additional dependency on water, growing population, and reduced availability as a result of climate change. This complex issue is addressed in An Engineering Perspective of Water Sharing Issues in Pakistan, in relation to the water sharing arrangements between Pakistan, India and Afghanistan in the Indus Basin, by Muhammed Atiq Ur Rehman Tariq from VU and researchers from the Netherlands and Pakistan. Equitable management issues and outdated irrigation practices are exacerbating a water shortage in the basin which is now increasingly countered by the use of groundwater. This sudden high extraction of groundwater is causing depletion of the groundwater table and quality issues, which is heightening provincial conflicts over water. Policy, enforcement, engineering and social support are all needed to develop a comprehensive, fair and transparent water strategy.

Ashok Sharma and Ted Gardner tackle regional water planning issues both in Australia and in other countries. The researchers developed a methodology to ensure that rain water policies are effective for achieving predicted tank water savings for urban water supply planning; and teamed up with researchers from Nepal to examine Impacts of climate change on the flow of the transboundary Koshi River, with implications for local irrigation.

In advancing the treatment of wastewater, researchers contributed numerous reports.

Two reports by Peter Sanciolo and Stephen Gray looked at the viability of pasteurisation for the treatment of wastewater as an alternative to chemical treatment. Pasteurisation does not produce harmful by-products and so could offer a sustainable alternative, with a lower pre-treatment requirement, to other disinfection processes. The researchers teamed up with water supply industry researchers in Australia and the United States for Selection of surrogate pathogens and process indicator organisms for pasteurisation of municipal wastewater and for Effectiveness and Energy Requirements of Pasteurisation for the Treatment of Unfiltered Secondary Effluent from a Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plant.

In other wastewater treatment research: Mikel Duke led a team of VU researchers to improve the removal of herbicide from industrial wastewater and develop a method using light conducting photocatalytic membrane for sustainable, low-chemical filtration of polluted water; Jianhua Zhang teamed up with researchers from the CSIRO to conduct A Review on Current Development of Membranes for Oil Removal from Wastewaters.

Investigations to improve water supply included a collaboration by Anne Ng and Chris Perera with Sri Lankan researchers to look at the issues, challenges and opportunities of Optimization of Green Infrastructure Practices in Industrial Areas for Runoff Management; and Sharma Ashok co-authored a paper to examine the Economic Viability of Water-Supply Gravity Main which can provide cost savings, as it does not require power and is more reliable than a pumped system.

A project led by Dr Nitin Muttil for City West Water in 2019-2020, to reduce the problem of bursts and leaks in the pipe network, had great success for saving water, reducing repair costs and for developing a source of clean energy. When looking into the causes of pipe failure, Dr Muttil identified excess pressure in sections of the network causing pipes to burst could be used to drive water turbines to generate electricity and, at the same time, relieve the pressure. This project involved developing AI algorithms to predict locations of leaks. This allows the water utility to develop a pipe replacement plan based on the risk factors identified.

Victoria University partnered with EGL (Environmental Group Limited) Water to develop a process to separate and destroy harmful PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl compounds) in contaminated water. PFAS is a developing crisis, as the chemicals are toxic, highly persistent and accumulate in the bodies of fish, animals and people. EGL applied for a patent in 2020 after successful trails at a pilot plant, with the oversight and technical guidance of VU researchers.

Wyndham Tech School, managed by VU, in partnership with Greater Western Water, offer an Industry Program Toilet to Treatment to regional secondary students in solving real world problems of water network management and waste treatment.

Greater Western Water is a close industry partner working with our engineering researchers and teachers for the Bachelor and Master of Civil Engineering specialisations.