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Professor Holger Maier (email)
School of Civil, Environmental & Mining Engineering
The University of Adelaide
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Friday, 20 November 2009
A University of Adelaide student project aimed at solving urban water supply problems in Australia has won a national engineering award.
Engineers Australia has honoured Fiona Paton, John Baulis, Ben Staniford and Lisa Lloyd for an engineering project aimed at helping governments to overcome urban water shortages in a sustainable manner.
The four completed a case study of Adelaide's Southern water supply system (which supplies about half of Adelaide's water needs) for their 2008 Honours project in the School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering at the University of Adelaide.
Fiona (now a PhD student), John and Ben will present the group's findings at the Society for Sustainability and Environmental Engineering national conference in Melbourne next week.
"One of the major challenges of this century is to identify ways to reliably supply water to towns and cities under the increasing pressures of population growth, urbanisation and climate change," Fiona says.
"We undertook a multi-faceted approach to this problem that incorporated economic, environmental and technical aspects of water supply. For our case study, we examined River Murray supply, reservoir supply, desalinated water and household rainwater tanks, and evaluated different combinations of these supply types in terms of their cost, greenhouse gas emissions and water security risk.
"Ideally, to meet the demand of the Southern system in the long term, as well as keep the costs and greenhouse gas emissions to a minimum, a combination of all sources would be best.
"Reservoir and River Murray water are cheaper and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than desalinated water and rainwater. However, due to the uncertainty over River Murray supply and with reservoir yield projected to decrease due to the effects of climate change, then alternative sources must be considered," Fiona says.
"Desalinated water is preferable in terms of cost, while rainwater outperforms desalinated water when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions.
"Hopefully, the techniques developed in this research project will help water managers in Australia make better informed and more sustainable decisions when planning for long term water supplies," Fiona says.