Water smart cities

November 11, 2015

From bacteria in sewers to vertical surfaces of buildings, the urban environment has a wealth of water smart resources.

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


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