Technology, engineering and design

Investments in infrastructure, equipment and maintenance can be major for significant users of water, from large mining operations, local councils and utilities, to farmers and property developers. Bespoke solutions for managing water use are often required, to optimise each specific system and minimise costs.

    Pipes inside a building

    Our researchers know what it means to do more with less water. The centre is located in the driest state on the driest inhabited continent on Earth. Our goal is to develop technology, design and applied science solutions to optimise the use, supply and treatment of water.

    For every project, we assemble a team that is purpose-built for the specific challenge. The expertise is all available via our centre:

    • water, civil, electrical, chemical, mechatronic and mechanical engineers at the Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences (ECMS), which consistently achieves 'Excellence in Research Australia’ scores of 5 (the highest possible score)
    • machine learning experts at the multi-award winning Australian Institute for Machine Learning (AIML)
    • built environment experts at the School of Architecture & Built Environment, which designs human-centred, sustainable futures
    • plant, soil and agriculture scientists at the Waite Research Institute, whose vision is to drive innovation to secure a sustainable future for agriculture
    • advanced sensing experts at the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensors (IPAS), and remote sensing experts at the Spatial Sciences Group and the Unmanned Research Aircraft Facility (URAF).
    • Agtech, including digital water use, precision farming, supply chain optimisation, farm placement to avoid downstream pollution, water transport properties in plants (inc water uptake and transpiration), irrigation efficiency optimisation with sensors, and analysing soil moisture and nutrient cycling

    • Water distribution systems, including optimising supply systems (right mix of reuse, wastewater tanks, harvesting, desal for a given city), pipeline condition assessment, assessing trade-offs between ecological and irrigation and supply, and drainage systems.
    • Sustainable and smart built environments that conserve water, such as the design of green and blue infrastructure, sponge cities, and large-scale urban renewal projects
    • Agriculture science, including plant breeding for more water efficient crops, strategic irrigation management, and understanding plant physiology mechanisms to maximise water efficiency
    • Waterway restoration design to achieve environmental gains alongside human goals, and find opportunities to ‘rewild’ historic losses of waterways, wetlands and swamps with emerging or shifting uses
    • Water-energy nexus, including renewable energy such as hydroelectricity, and using renewables in water distribution systems for emissions reduction
    • ‘Smart’ water networks and models, and simplified algorithms for computationally heavy applications and decision-making.
    • Agriculture: Dryland environments, precision water systems, irrigation technologies, salinity and soils
    • Energy: Hydroelectricity, pumped hydro energy storage, pumping, water for desalination and themal power station cooling towers, hydrogen production and oil and gas production
    • Infrastructure: Dams, spillways, levees, contaminant transport, pumped systems, treatment plants, roads, culverts, bridges, coastal infrastructure
    • Mining: Groundwater, operational water, carbon sequestration, mineral processing plants, contaminant transport, remediation, property rights
    • Municipal water: Supply and wastewater networks, demand management, water prices and charges, urban design, ‘smart water’ systems, leak detection, water efficiency, groundwater, sewerage
    • Space: Hydrological monitoring for in-situ resource utilisation (ISRU)
    • Urban design: Sustainable built environments, waterway restoration design, green/blue infrastructure
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    • Highlighted researchers

      Professor Angus Simpson is part of the School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering. He works around the world informing plans, designs, operations and maintenance of water distribution system infrastructure, in both municipal and regional settings. His work includes minimises energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions in water distribution systems.

      Professor Martin Lambert focuses on hydrology and the effective and efficient condition assessment of pipeline infrastructure. He has developed new “water hammer” techniques for condition assessment of water distribution systems. He has also developed and tested sensor networks to monitor water distribution systems.

      Professor Veronica Soebarto is interim leader of the Sustainable and Smart Built Environment at the School of Architecture and Built Environment. Her team’s research interests include designing built environments to conserve, recycle and reuse water.

      Ms Tanya Court is a landscape architect at the School of Architecture and Built Environment. She is interested in waterway restoration design, where environmental gains are recovered alongside economic and societal gains such as recreational, active transport, and tourism.

      Dr Vinay Pagay is a senior lecturer at the School for Agriculture, Food and Wine. He specialises in understanding water in plants, particularly in vineyards. He is our go-to expert on applying digital technologies in the context of fundamental transport properties of water within a plant, such as uptake into roots and leaves, and transpiration.

      Dr Tien-Fu Lu is a mechanics and automation expert at theSchool of Mechanical Engineering. He uses sensor and actuators, such as an Internet of Things device-level programming devices, system control communications, and micro nano positioning devices, applying his expertise in areas such as a mining, viticulture and Smart Cities.

    Case studies

    Vitivisor - Vineyard precision control system

    Agribusiness everywhere is undergoing a digital revolution. Digitisation can bring economic, environmental and social benefits. But to date, uptake rates have been low.

    This project is developing an open-source platform to improve vineyard production outcomes like gross margins and productivity.

    Our researchers successfully road-tested a pilot guidance system that includes irrigation and other water management information. Now, we are optimising the system with sensing and automation technologies, and helping to configure the dashboard to be predictive and advisory.

    New techniques for condition assessments

    The water engineers at the centre are well known globally for their expertise in pipe condition assessments and water system optimisation. Recently, they have developed:

    • Inverse transient techniques to assess the condition of water distribution systems, using small water hammer waves that rapidly travel around a pipe system to detect problems
    • Sensor networks to monitor transient pressure
    • Techniques to determine the impact of biofilms on pipe roughness.