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  • James Howey

Next Water

I had the pleasure of attending Next Water in Melbourne early in February. The event is run by WaterRA, which is a members organisation established to build capacity and undertake national collaborative research relevant to urban, regional and rural water utilities.

The event was at the MCG, which was great venue. Unfortunately, there wasn't a game to watch in the session breaks, but we did have the pleasure of watching the groundsmen prepare the cricket pitch.

The conference was split over 2 days and the majority of the days were split between 2 streams. This did cause me some problems, as I usually wanted to attend both sessions, which is a good problem to have. Each session was jam packed, as most presentations were kept short to crystallise the findings.

The program was as follows:

  • Day 1

  • Opening and keynote

  • Session 1: Climate Change or Water and Wastewater Treatment

  • Session 2: Water Security or Resource Recovery

  • Session 3: Data Science into Strategy Workshop or Sanitary Surveys and Operational Monitoring in Catchments Workshop

  • Gala Dinner

  • Day 2

  • Keynote

  • Session 1: Alternate Water Sources or Data Science

  • Session 2: One Health or Catchment Source Water Management

  • Session 3: Driving Impact Through Collaboration

The conference got off to a great start with the opening keynote delivered by Joan Rose from Michigan State University. Some of the points from her presentation were:

  • Water supply schemes are under ever increasing pressure:

  • Ageing infrastructure

  • Climate change

  • Source water changes

  • Emerging hazards - some of those are hazards that we are already aware of such as lead or Legionella

  • Disinfection - a greater understanding of the science is required

  • Social structures - population changes

  • Population growth

  • One of the biggest sources of waste is animal faeces and to a large extent it is uncontrolled.

  • Drinking water is only guaranteed to the property boundary. However, the number 1 waterborne disease in the US is Legionella.

  • The Flint water crisis was the first instance where the treatment plant operators were held responsible for issues in third-part plumbing. i.e. Legionella deaths.

  • Better diagnostic tools are needed. Digital droplet PCR DNA testing is a new testing technology which can track the source of microorganisms, as well as quantify them.

There were many other great presentations and workshops throughout the two days, too much to summarise in this post.

Some other points of interest were:

  • Electrochlorination can be used to chlorinate water using chloride present in the water, no chemicals need!

  • Utilising MBBR as pretreatment for drinking water to reduce organics.

  • Graphene being used in nanofilters to improve flux.

  • Validation of media filters to gain valuable LRV credits

  • Granular sludge in wastewater treatment reducing energy consumption.

  • Organic particle shielding microorganisms from disinfection.

  • The link between front line operator competency and issues.

  • The use of paleoclimate data to better model water supplies.

  • It is estimated that 30% of Australia's water storage capacity will be lost by 2050 due to sedimentation.

  • We need to use wastewater better. New developments are looking at up to 50% of water use being recycled water.

  • Catchment sanitary surveys, for HBT assessments, are being undertaken using sophisticated mapping and sampling programs. It is easy to identify Cat 1 & 4, but 2 & 3 are more difficult. More detailed category definitions and data are required to do this.

  • More alternate sources of water will need to be utilised in the future to meet demand. Tools such as WaterSET have been developed to assist with this.

  • The next revision of the ADWG will have Short-Term Exposure Values (STEV) for some chemicals.

  • PFAS chemicals are everywhere. It is possible that they can leach into green leafy vegetables.

  • Wastewater is being used to get population-wide data on such things as illicit drug use and health.

  • Collaboration is needed between the water industry and academia to address the problems that we're going to face.

This was just a short snippet of the conference. I believe that the papers will be made available on the WaterRA website.

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