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What water treatment lessons can remote Australian communities learn from the Middle East?

Australian Water Association member Eric Vanweydeveld has been awarded a 2018 Churchill Fellowship that will see him travel to the Middle East to investigate emerging water treatment technologies, which could have application for small water systems in regional Australia.

Conventional water treatment systems used in Australian cities typically have high capital and operating costs; use complex water treatment processes; and require a regular supply of various chemicals and almost daily intervention by experienced and well-trained operators.

In contrast, the water supply systems used in regional and remote communities are relatively simple, and often provide only basic disinfection against biological, naturally occurring chemicals and mineral impurities.

“This technological gap between urban and remote systems is largely due to economics,” Vanweydeveld said.

“Advanced water treatment systems require scale and are therefore not a viable option for Australia’s hundreds of remote communities and regional centres.”

In his role as a senior project manager at Power and Water Corporation, Vanweydeveld has successfully delivered several high-profile water quality projects in the Northern Territory in recent years, including the Adelaide River and Borroloola water treatment plants and the Alice Springs water recycling plant.

Now, he’s looking to the Middle East for proven low-cost, innovative water treatment solutions that he said could benefit remote communities across Australia.

He will visit Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Oman for eight weeks to learn more about the countries’ treatment solutions for small, decentralised water supply systems. He will also review how the countries include water innovation in their policies for regional development, and look at the socio-economic impact of implementing innovative water solutions.

Since its inception in 1965, the Churchill Trust has helped more than 4300 Australians travel overseas to undertake research, analysis or investigation of a project or issue that can’t be undertaken in Australia.

The idea is participants return to Australia armed with information and practices that will advance their projects and benefit Australian communities.

“Through this Churchill Fellowship I hope to shape future water projects in remote Australia by applying new innovation with respect to water treatment technologies and solutions that can benefit regional and remote communities,” Vanweydeveld said.

“I look forward to sharing the knowledge and experience I gain overseas with the Australian water industry."