The latest news from UNSW's water community.
Photo by Danil Shostak on Unsplash
 
Photo by Danil Shostak on Unsplash
 
 
Welcome to our January Newsletter 
 
Welcome to our first GWI newsletter for 2020. The year in Australia has started catastrophically. The loss of life, including international firefighters, and homes, damage to communities, destruction of ecosystems and agriculture and the unprecedented loss of animals and wildlife has been devastating and incomprehensible. While state and federal governments have attempted to respond, with varying degrees of success, it is the stories of individual and grass roots bravery, generosity and compassion that provide hope. All acts of good will and gestures are important, and collectively can rebuild and effect change. UNSW Sydney has responded by offering support to students from areas affected by the fires and has developed a database of research groups that can provide advice and assistance on a range of issues from health, transport, telecommunications, power and Post-disaster recovery. From the UNSW Water Community, Stuart Khan has shown outstanding leadership in sharing the results of his work on impacts of bushfires and other extreme weather events on water quality. Stuart’s work was widely reported in the media and he continues to work closely with water utilities, regional councils and health authorities. Similarly, recent work of Ashish Sharma on water supply planning is gaining significant traction. Using surface and stream flow data, Ashish’s team have been able to quantify the expected reduction in stream flows for a number of catchments across the state. The results are sobering. Based on the current data the long term average inflows into the river systems supplying agriculture, the environment and towns in many parts of NSW have declined by 20%. Reduced surface water supplies are the new normal and the time to invest in diversified water supplies for regional and rural Australia is now. In addition, the effect of a drier and warmer climate is pushing Australia’s unique fauna to dangerously low numbers, particularly the platypus, which has been the subject of an extensive study led by Gilad Bino, a researcher at the Centre for Ecosystem Science. So, given the threat global warming presents to the land and water, the ecosystems that depend on these resources and the generations that are to follow, we applaud the 80 Australian Research Council Laureates that have penned an open letter to our political leaders to act. Five leading UNSW researchers - Steven Sherwood, Rose Amal, Chris Turney, Trevor McDougall and Matthew England - were signatories to the letter which concluded with a simple but forceful directive, “We call on all governments to acknowledge the gravity of the threat posed by climate change driven by human activities, and to support and implement evidence-based policy responses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in time to safeguard against catastrophe. We owe this to younger generations and those who come after them, who will bear the brunt of our decisions.”
 
In other news we have an update on the 13th meeting of the OECD Water Governance Initiative that was held in January; a profile of PhD student Weija (‘Eve’) Liu who is working with MaryLouise McLaws and Torsten Thomas to establish a reliable process for regular monitoring of antibiotic and antibiotic resistance in wastewater; and an open invitation for residents and visitors to Sydney to attend the annual Water Research Laboratory Open Day. Events scheduled for February include the 10th International Membrane Science and Technology Conference that will be held in Sydney.
Finally we conclude our newsletter with congratulations to Professor Mark Hoffman, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering on his new appointment as Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic at the University of Newcastle. Mark was the driving force behind the establishment of the UNSW Global Water Institute and we thank him for his leadership and support and wish him all the best in his new role.
 
Professor Greg Leslie 
Director, UNSW Global Water Institute
 
   News
GWI drinking water and extreme
Drinking water under threat: water contamination risks this bushfire season
 
Regional and metropolitan areas around NSW are facing water quality concerns in the face of the bushfire crisis. In some areas of the state, drinking water treatment plants have been physically damaged by fire or impacted by fire-related power outages, causing a loss of drinkable tap water. A reduction in water quality may also affect metropolitan areas, as ash and sediment may be washed into major water catchments such as Warragamba Dam.
 
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Warragamba Dam - Shutterstock
Dwindling inflows into catchment areas – a water supply disaster in the making?
 
The frequency of water restrictions in Australia is set to treble by the end of the century after modelling by GWI engineers showed climate change will significantly reduce inflows into catchment areas. Researchers from the UNSW School of Civil and Environmental Engineering say reservoir reliability – or the frequency with which a reservoir can supply surrounding urban or rural populations without invoking water restrictions – will fall across the country as we head towards the end of the century.
 
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Photo by David Clode on Unsplash
Platypus on brink of extinction
 
A new study led by the UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science has revealed that Australia’s devastating drought is having a critical impact on the iconic platypus, with increasing reports of rivers drying up and platypuses becoming stranded. Lead author Dr Gilad Bino, a researcher at the UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science, says action must be taken now to prevent the platypus from disappearing from our waterways.
 
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Mark Hoffman
Farewell to Prof Mark Hoffman 
 
With mixed feelings, we farewell Professor Mark Hoffman who will leave UNSW Sydney at the end of the month to become the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic at the University of Newcastle. Mark is recognised internationally as a leading engineer, researcher, teacher and administrator, and his vision was instrumental in establishing GWI in 2016.
 
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OECD Paris meeting
Prof Leslie attends OECD conference in Paris
 
GWI Director Prof Greg Leslie attended the 13th Meeting of the OECD Water Governance Initiative, held in Paris on 9-10 January 2020. Over 80 practitioners, policymakers and representatives from major stakeholder groups attended, with meeting highlights including the release of a report on Water Governance in Argentina; updates on the implementation of the OECD Council Recommendation on Water, OECD Contributions to the G20 and progress on the road to the 9th World Water Forum; and updates on research and analysis on water governance. 
 
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 Upcoming Events
 
 
International Membrane Science Conference
 
GWI is a proud sponsor of the 10th International Membrane Science and Technology Conference (IMSTEC), to be held at UNSW Sydney from 2-6 February, 2020. IMSTEC is attended by industry and academic leaders and focuses on advances in all areas of membrane science and technology, with particular attention on water treatment, food processing, energy production and material characterisation.
 
 
More info
 
Water Research Laboratory open day
 
Ever wanted to know why rips form in the surf or what happens to all the sand on the beach in a storm? Interested in how dams, harbours and breakwalls are designed? And how, exactly, do these things get tested anyway? The WRL Open Day at Manly Vale on 15 February is a fantastic opportunity to experience our unique, world-class research facility first hand. Tour our massive labs, meet our experts, and see engineering and science at work.
 
More info
 
    In Profile
Eve Liu
Introducing Weija 'Eve' Liu, PhD Candidate
 
From 2010-2017, Weija (‘Eve’) Liu was a medical student studying clinical medicine at Tongji University in Shanghai, China. While working in hospitals, she witnessed serious infection cases caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, leaving many patients with unfavourable prognosis. This experience piqued Eve’s interest in antibiotic usage and resistance, and specifically its prevalence and evolution within society. Eve says that antibiotic resistance has the potential to hugely impact global health, development and security.
 
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   Contact
 
UNSW-GWI
P: +61 (2) 9385 5097
E: gwi@unsw.edu.au
 
 
UNSW Global Water Institute
Kensington Campus, NSW, 2052
 
 
 
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