Led by Professor Zhiguo Yuan, researchers at The University of Queensland have been working to improve the function and reduce maintenance costs of sewers. The team, supported by ARC Linkage Projects scheme funding, are working in collaboration with eleven industry partners who collectively provide wastewater services to around two thirds of Australians, as well as other parts of the world.

Together they have developed a tool, called SeweX, supported by fundamental knowledge generated from in-sewer physical, chemical and biological processes. Using sophisticated mathematical modelling, SeweX can pinpoint corrosion or odour hotspots in sewer infrastructure, determine the service life of sewers, and optimise migration strategies through catchment-scale modelling.

The team has also delivered several new, highly innovative technologies for more cost-effective mitigation of sewer corrosion and odour, which are being commercialised worldwide.

For example, the research team showed that a common coagulant added during watertreatment, aluminium sulfate, is a key precursor that contributes to rapid concrete degradation. Their solution to switch to sulfate-free coagulants, at little or no extra cost, will generate savings in sewer maintenance and corrosion costs.

The impact of the team’s research on the water industry has been recognised worldwide, including by the International Water Association, which awarded their project the 2014 Global Project Innovation Award (Applied Research).

SeweX modelling has delivered hundreds of millions of dollars in cost-savings to the Australian water industry.

Image: Researchers onsite at a wastewater treatment site.
Image courtesy: The University of Queensland.