Tag Archives: Urban Wetlands

Water smart cities

Work at the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities will play a vital role in safeguarding the water supplies of our cities, managing our waste as a resource and protecting cities from floods – making them water smart cities.

Vertical gardens

A space-saving way to beautify buildings, vertical gardens increase urban biodiversity and improve local microclimates. With water supplies under increasing demand, the gardens must be able to flourish using sustainable watering practices. Perth landscaping firm Deep Green and CRC partner, the City of Subiaco, designed a vertical garden for a local library. Tailored to the local climate and using native plants that require minimal water, it is the first vertical garden in WA and it thrived in its first summer. CRC researchers are developing technologies that will enable the gardens to treat greywater from the buildings for reuse in landscape watering and to flush toilets in the same buildings. In Australia, this could save up to 50% of typical household water usage.

Water smart cities: urban wetlands

“Cities in Australia and the world are all facing significant challenges related to growing populations, water being one of them. Liveability within the city is very much dependent on how we manage water,” says Professor Wong. Artificial wetlands constructed in our cities are one of the most promising technologies for a sustainable, water-sensitive future, providing a way to process stormwater run-off while creating public amenities. The bodies of water act as holding reservoirs, trapping sediments and pollutants, while vegetation provides a biofilter that removes and, in some cases, converts pollutants into harmless substances. The CRC for Water Sensitive Cities is working to improve the technology and adapt it to treat not only stormwater during wet spells, but also wastewater and polluted groundwater during dry periods.

Water smart cities: hidden treasure in our sewers

Eliminating nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium from wastewater is an energy-intensive process necessary to avoid toxic algal blooms in our waterways. But in the right formulation, these elements can be used to make a precious resource: agricultural fertiliser. Led by Dr Damien Batstone, researchers from the Advanced Water Management Centre at the University of Queensland are developing a technique that uses bacteria to extract the nutrients, transforming the waste into fertiliser. Initial testing on farms has been successful and, in an added benefit, the approach generates methane, which can be burnt to generate electricity, improving energy efficiency.

– Jude Dineley


Mosquito urban wetlands

After a stint working as an environmental consultant trawling swampland in Sydney and Wollongong, Jayne Hanford has gone back to uni to do a postgrad researching one of Australia’s least favourite invertebrates – mosquitoes.

“Bugs are really cool,” says Jayne, with characteristic enthusiasm. “They’re like little aliens when you look at them under a microscope, and there’s a lot of diversity.”

Jayne’s research at The University of Sydney looks at what conditions can create mosquito-free urban wetlands and preserve urban wetland biodiversity.

“I’m the only person researching the aquatic environment – there are people working on tic pathogens, bees, spiders, ants and bats in urban areas,” says Jayne, describing the diversity of research being undertaken at her lab.

There is currently little research on biodiversity in urban wetlands – and what research is available is somewhat disjointed.

While the conditions conducive for mosquitoes are well understood in natural wetlands, as are the conditions for creating high biodiversity, these findings haven’t been applied to urban wetland ecology.

“I hadn’t really thought about mosquitoes before, I was more interested in the protection of biodiversity, and thought it would be interesting to look at that in an urban context,” says Jayne.

Her main supervisor at the uni, Associate Professor Dieter Hochuli is focused on urban ecology, so Jayne took the opportunity to undertake research into how biodiversity and mosquito populations are linked in urban wetlands.

“The councils I’ve spoken to would really like to know if their wetlands do have mosquitoes because it influences how they manage them in the future.”

As wetland vegetation are often good breeding grounds for mosquitoes, Jayne’s research will assist councils to understand the biodiversity value of a wetland and whether it poses a risk to public health from mosquito-borne diseases.

This understanding will lead to better management of a wetland’s biodiversity while minimising risks from mosquitos. And could allow for the integration of biodiversity and stormwater and wastewater management strategies with public health programs.

“My research will look at what we need to create a really good network of wetlands for conservation in urban areas that tick all the boxes,” explains Jayne.

“They must be visually appealing, be places for recreation, provide a habitat for wildlife, improve water quality, minimise mosquito or weed infestations – and avoid making people sick. People can walk their dogs around them, and they benefit biodiversity.”

– Carl Williams