Technology underpins better water management

6 May 2012

Business Environment Network Online

By Max Pichon

Water holds the key to Australia’s long-term productivity and quality of life based on technological innovation and scientific advances, according to a report on water management by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE). The report favours the idea of creating drinking water supplies through recycled water through innovative water treatment processes.

But the report notes that innovation is impeded by existing long-term investments in infrastructure and systems and technology lock-in, and governments should encourage investment and uptake of energy efficient and flexible water supply options that increase efficiency and productivity and reduce environmental impact.

"The public appears deeply sceptical about drinking recycled water due to fears about health risk, despite scientific evidence of the safety of modern treatment processes," the report says.
Reusing waste water for drinking is "a scientific no-brainer", MDBA chairman Craig Knowles says. "We can get environmental, social and economic dividends without wrecking the landscape, and indeed creating the hope of a retooled, revitalised, food-producing district for another few generations," he said.

It says government support for innovation should be carefully targeted to accelerate the development and uptake of efficient technologies while minimising the risk of technology lock-in, reduced competition and crowding out of private investment.

The report titled, Sustainable water management: Securing Australia’s future in a green economy, was released by the ATSE following a year-long study led by ATSE Fellows Brian Spies FTSE, the former Research Director at Sydney Water, and Graeme Dandy FTSE, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Adelaide.

The report notes that investment decisions in water infrastructure should use the best science to balance social, economic and environmental factors and take account of the cost of externalities such as greenhouse emissions, land degradation and water pollution.

Technological innovation and scientific advances will play key roles in increasing understanding of the water cycle, especially in areas such as hydrological modelling and forecasting, increased efficiency of water use, improved environmental outcomes and the ability to adapt rapidly to changes in climate and demand.

Technology innovation could include:

  • Improvements in direct potable water recycling technology;
  • Reduced energy use in water management; and
  • Reduced water use in power generation.

Noting that water is interrelated with almost all sectors of the economy – including agriculture, mining, electricity production, manufacturing, recreation and tourism - ATSE recommends that water policy should be fully integrated across all relevant sectors within government, to recognise the multiple roles of water within the Australian economy and community.

The report was launched on May 4 in Sydney by Professor Stuart Bunn, Acting Chair of the National Water Commission. The launch will be followed by two seminars on key water issues:

  1. Sustainable Water Management – Securing Australia’s future in a green economy – features both Dr Spies and Professor Dandy and speakers include Craig Knowles, Chair, Murray-Darling Basin Authority; Jamie Pittock, Director of International Programs for the UNESCO Chair in Water Economics and Transboundary Water Governance; and Program Leader, Australia and US – Climate, Energy and Water, US Studies Centre and ANU Water Initiative, and Adam Lovell, CEO Water Services Association of Australia.
  2. The Basin Beyond 2019 - Environmental, economic and social impacts of a Sustainable Water Management strategy for the Murray Darling Basin – beyond 2019, Professor Richard Kingsford, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental sciences, University of NSW; George Warne, CEO, NVIRP, former CEO, NSW State water and MD, Murray Irrigation; Karlene Maywald, former SA Minister for Water Security and Minister for the River Murray; andMike Raupach FAA FTSE, Research Team Leader, Marine and Atmospheric Research, CSIRO.

More information on the ATSE website.


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Tags: Australia United States Climate Energy Water Nexus Project, Climate Change, Dow Sustainability Program, Energy, Jamie Pittock, Water

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