Director's Report: December 2020

11 Dec 2020
Zhiguo Yuan
Zhiguo Yuan AM, Director of the ACWEB

On Friday morning the AWMC came together in person for the first time since March this year. With appropriate physical distancing we viewed a new documentary which features water industry and community leaders advocating for water literacy, technology, recycling and sustainability on a local and global level. Our discussion which followed, combined with reflecting on our achievements during this challenging year, gave me great reassurance that AWMC will continue to have a positive impact on global water trends, not just in terms of scientific and technological developments, but more importantly, in developing future leaders.

The AWMC has functioned strongly as a team this year, supporting each other in adapting to changing modes of operation and engagement, while maintaining productivity. Our in-house analytical laboratory (ASL) safely maintained services, while our research continued both in the laboratory and on industry partner sites throughout the year – a massive effort in resilience and determination.

An almost record number of PhD students completed their studies this year – 14 in total from AMWC  – congratulations to these outstanding graduates who are now working in industry and academia both locally and overseas.

Our Master of Urban Water Engineering is going from strength to strength with 22 enrolments in its second year, a very encouraging intake especially considering international travel restrictions. We continue to receive excellent student feedback on teaching and course evaluations, and the teaching team are committed to maintaining these high standards while adapting the course for dual delivery mode.

Another first for AWMC was the sold-out launch of IWES courses via online delivery. Over 180 industry practitioners took part in 9 diverse, continuing professional development courses over 2 weeks – a major achievement for the AWMC team, who took over management and operations of IWES for the first time this year.

With strong support from industry partners, we were awarded 3 ARC Linkage grants for: Sewer corrosion reduction through model-supported ventilation controlUnderstanding Australia by analysing wastewater during the Census 2021, and Sustainable water reuse and resource recovery through cost-effective BNR. We were disappointed to learn we were not successful in bidding for the NESP2 Sustainable Communities and Waste Hub, however, our ability to assemble a major, highly competitive bid, supported by 36+ industry/government/university partners during the height of lock-down, demonstrates the collective enthusiasm for impactful outcomes from our collaborative research. Recently submitting a UQ-based EOI, we’re building on this level of enthusiasm in leading a new bid for a future Centre of Excellence. Just applying for this major, Commonwealth-supported initiative will take almost 2 years of collaboration, and we are looking forward to co-designing and shaping an innovative program with the big-picture of revolutionising our fossil-based economy through renewable carbon biotechnologies.

Congratulations to AWMC Executive team member, Steven Kenway who specialises in the water-energy nexus, for promotion to full Professor. We also congratulate Adjunct Professor Bill Capati PSM (formerly of City of Gold Coast), a long-term and influential supporter of innovative research, on his prestigious UQ Fellow award.

It was exciting to recently attend the AWA Gala dinner in person at the Sunshine Coast – further than I’ve travelled the whole year! Hearty congratulations to the research and industry partners on the Zero Energy Sewage Treatment project (supported by the Advanced Queensland Innovation Partnerships scheme) for winning the AWA Queensland Research Innovation Award, and good luck in the upcoming national round. AMWC students comprised three out of four student finalists, with congratulations to Zhiyao Wang for winning the AWA Qld Student Award. I was humbled to be awarded the Qld Water Professional of the Year – and I dedicate this award to the incredibly passionate people I work with in the water industry, who inspire me every day.

An individual who has greatly inspired me and many other water professionals over decades around the globe is Professor Jurg Keller – we are saddened to farewell him from the Executive team. Jurg was foundational in the establishment of the AWMC, creating an enduring legacy through his innovative strategic vision and global perspective. All at AWMC wish Jurg well in retirement, and we trust he will continue to contribute enthusiastic and creative ideas in his Emeritus position.

In closing, I thank AWMC staff, students and partners for maintaining persistence and enthusiasm for our research work in the face of adversity this year - we have demonstrated collective resilience. I wish you all the best for a well-deserved break, and I look forward to another year of innovative and impactful, collaborative research.

Zhiguo Yuan AM, Director of the Advanced Water Management Centre