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Melbourne students work on urban cooling project

Lyndhurst Primary School is the site of an experiment to see whether water is cheaper than electricity in managing the urban heat island effect.

South East Water, in collaboration with University of Melbourne and the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities, will use its OneBox®+ controller to manage and monitor sensors, irrigation and misting to cool the landscape in the outer Melbourne suburb.

Research will take place at Aquarevo House, Australia's most water and energy efficient residential community, with Lyndhurst Primary School as a secondary control site.

The system will monitor and control the irrigation and misting remotely through commercially available climate stations and low-cost prototype sensors developed by the utility which gauge ambient temperature, ambient light intensity, relative humidity, soil moisture and soil temperature.

“We’re excited to share this project with Lyndhurst Primary School. Some of the students are, or may eventually be residents of the Aquarevo Estate – so it’s great that they’re learning with us and supporting our ongoing research to find integrated water management solutions that contribute to tackling challenges like climate change and water security,” said Acting General Manager Terry Dalgleish.

“If successful, this technology could potentially offer cheaper energy bills by using less air conditioning inside, and a smart irrigation system that only waters plants when they need it.”

Melbourne has been experiencing more frequent heatwaves for the last two decades, with the intensity and duration of heatwaves expected to increase in the future. This is likely to exacerbate the urban heat island effect. A 2019 Victorian government report estimated that extreme heatwave events cost the city of Melbourne's economy almost $53 million per year on average.

Research out of California has found that urban cooling measures and water conservation often go hand-in-hand, with one project found to have meaningfully decreased outdoor water consumption by reducing evaporative and irrigation water demands by up to 9 percent.

Doing it for the kids

The project installed a climate station at the school, and will be sharing data from the climate station on humidity, ambient light intensity, soil temperature, soil moisture and ambient temperature so the school can use this information as part of their climate studies.

It has also built sustainable garden beds at the school for growing native vegetables, giving students the opportunity to learn more about water’s role in managing climate change as well as Indigenous foods and culture.

This project is an extension of South East Water’s Aquarevo development in Lyndhurst. It opened in 2019, with 460 homes plumbed with three sources of water; drinking water, recycled water and rainwater.

Recycled water is used for the washing machine, toilet and garden, and rainwater for showering, with residents able to reduce their water usage by up to 70 per cent. The water sources are integrated using a rain-to-hot water system and the OneBox®+ controller.