Water is a universal resource and access to it is a universal requirement for life, health, our environment, and our society. Water sources face competing demands from urban development, industry and agriculture, while also being needed to maintain broader environmental values. Demand from human activities is increasing, while supply is declining in many areas across Australia due to climate change and decreasing rainfall.

During the past decade, Curtin University has been building research capabilities to support sustainable water use, developing practical tools, products and processes to address issues of water quality, water quantity and related water supply challenges.

Our research expertise ranges from water quality at the molecular level to entire ecosystem interactions and impacts.

Our research specialities include:

Water sources and water quantity
Water quality
Water recycling
Water demand
Water governance, regulation and allocation policy

Water sources and water quantity

  • As aquifers are tapped to supplement domestic water supplies, research at the Western Australian School of Mines: Minerals, Energy and Chemical Engineering (WASM-MECE) is expanding knowledge of aquifer hydrogeology. For example, researchers are working with the WA Water Corporation to understand the connectivity and flow of water through the aquifer, the impacts of extracting water on local ecosystems, and how recycling water back into the aquifer affects the quality and volume of our groundwater.
  • WASM-MECE researchers based at the Curtin Kalgoorlie campus are considering water concerns in an industrial ecosystem context, and working with technologies to create value from wastewater streams including carbon mineralisation and metal recovery.
  • Considerations for monitoring and extracting groundwater are supported by expertise in WASM-MECE and the Curtin University Oil and Gas Innovation Centre (CUOGIC) in well logging and well field design.
  • To better manage our surface water reserves, Curtin’s School of Civil and Mechanical Engineering is investigating how climate change and human activity are impacting on rainfall, run-off and streamflow in surface water catchments, and opportunities for better urban stormwater management.

Water quality

  • The Curtin Water Quality Research Centre (CWQRC) has 30 years of experience as a trusted partner to our water providers in assessing water quality and developing new treatment strategies to produce drinking water from a greater range of source waters.
  • The CWQRC has developed new knowledge on the effect of high levels of bromide in source waters which has had significant industry impact. These high levels of bromide can be involved in unpleasant tastes and odours and formation of high concentrations of disinfection by-products, some of which are regulated in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.
  • The CWQRC is also exploring emerging treatment and disinfection technologies like continuous electrochlorination and advanced oxidation processes, as well as studying a number of aspects of desalination of seawater, to achieve high water quality from a range of different water sources.

Water recycling

  • Through the CWQRC, our researchers are providing better understanding of the removal of organic contaminants and nutrients in both urban and rural wastewater treatment.
  • The CWQRC’s early research on chemical risks and emerging contaminants contributed substantially to the promotion of large-scale water recycling in WA by providing the information necessary to develop regulations for indirect potable reuse.
  • CWQRC research helped optimise plant design to achieve water quality for aquifer recharge that consistently meets health and environmental guidelines. The centre also helped identify indicator chemicals to allow economical monitoring of process performance.
  • Demonstrating the deep impact of Curtin’s water recycling research, the WA Government adopted groundwater replenishment in two full-scale plants to help secure Perth’s dwindling water supply. The robust, rigorous and independent science provided by CWQRC and its collaborators gave confidence that concerns relating to chemical contamination in recycled water have been identified and addressed.

Water demand

  • The Curtin University Sustainable Policy Institute (CUSP) has an extensive track record of water monitoring and measurement projects to inform decisions around sustainable urban water use. By identifying water balances and usage patterns inside buildings, different technology can be harnessed to improve water efficiency.
  • Together with industry and the community, Curtin University’s Legacy Living Laboratory in East Fremantle is showcasing how smarter urban planning, design and management can contribute to the sustainable use of water and deliver a water-sensitive urban development.
  • CUSP is also championing the household use of alternative water sources such as rainwater and greywater in a range of ‘lived in’ demonstration programs using existing tools and technologies to make it easier for urban planners, builders and residents to minimise primary water use and improve urban water efficiency.
  • Curtin’s Centre for Crop and Disease Management (CCDM) is helping the industry gain a data-driven understanding of its water demand. By monitoring real-time on-farm water usage and combining this with weather, soil and crop-growing information, researchers are extrapolating water demand estimates across entire water catchments.
  • In conjunction with the Curtin Institute of Computation, data analytics, data visualisation and modelling capabilities can be used to map, understand and forecast complex systems of competing water demand into the future.

Water governance, regulation and allocation policy

  • In conjunction with other research groups at Curtin, the Curtin Business School supplies environmental and water accounting expertise, understanding of environmental law and water access legislation, stakeholder management, and governance and accountability strengths to mitigate water-related risks.

Connect with us

Curtin welcomes opportunities to collaborate with organisations that are interested in securing water for our future in a drying climate.

If you’d like to find out more information about Curtin’s Water capabilities, please view our Water Capability Statement or contact Director Research Initiatives, Tim Walton.