“I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains, of ragged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains.” The Australian poet Dorothea Mackellar thus portrayed the vast landscape of her continent, shaped alternatively by floods and droughts since time immemorial.
While that majestic landscape evokes poetic expressions in some, for others it presents a formidable challenge. Especially, for engineers involved in sustainable water management. As the driest continent on the earth, with a population growth that is double the world average, Australia’s fresh water supplies are now further threatened due to global warming. Water scarcity looms large as a threat.
“Past management practices, often guided by inappropriate government policies based on insufficient data have resulted in over-allocation of our river waters and aquifers, changed water flows, resulted in land clearing, algal blooms and inland salinity,” explained Professor K. Baskaran, Associate Dean (International) , Chair (Civil Engineering) at Deakin University, Australia.
Prof. Baskaran was visiting the Amritapuri campus of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, where he spoke to students and faculty members about Sustainable Water Management. The lecture was organized by the Amrita Center for International Programs.
Water recovery and reuse, smart water management practices and innovative treatment technologies were three complementary strategies forming the holistic approach Dr. Baskaran outlined for mitigating water scarcity.
“In order to contribute to sustainable management of urban water resources, relevant scientific research must be undertaken in partnership with community, industry and government,” the expert pointed out.
He further pointed to the need of modeling biofilm growth and disinfectant decay in order to maintain quality in water distribution systems. For water recovery from industrial and urban sources, he recommended membrane technologies. For remote communities with little or no access to the power grid, solar-powered membrane applications, he stated, were especially suited. In addition, he highlighted engineered wetland systems for wastewater treatment.
Suggesting bioremediation using microalgae and other floating aquatic plants for heavy metal removal of contaminated water ways, he provided details of one of his research projects that is using algal-bacterial biofilms to enhance nitrogen removal in wastewater treatment lagoons. Some advantages of algal-bacterial biofilms are their availability at reasonable costs, their high surface-to-volume ratio and longer durability.
“Improve the reliability of water supply by using water from a range of supply options (for example, desalination plants). Improve water efficiency and reduce water use to ease demand. Include integrated water cycle management and encourage appropriate pricing of water,” Dr Baskaran finally summarized his integrated approach to ensure the security of his continent’s water resources.
March 22, 2013