Changing how communities think about water in Oceania
Water is a fundamental necessity of life, and managing water—who uses it and how—is a key challenge in developing countries.
Decisions about how to use scarce freshwater for drinking, agriculture, industry, and the environment can lead to conflict. In Oceania, this is often complicated by questions of who should make the decisions—governments, landholders, industry or others.
Flash flooding, brought on by sudden torrential rain, killed dozens of people in Australia in 2011. Because of their very nature, it has been difficult to provide effective warnings. And that is a significant gap in Australia’s natural disaster management, according to the submission of RMIT University’s Centre for Risk and Community Safety to the 2011 Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry.
We now have the technology to deliver such warnings, says director of the Centre, Prof John Handmer. “But using it would raise issues about how quickly both the authorities and people at risk are prepared to make critical decisions when they receive the information.”
Imagine printing your own room lighting, lasers, or solar cells from inks you buy at the local newsagent. Jacek Jasieniak and colleagues at CSIRO, the University of Melbourne and the University of Padua in Italy, have developed liquid inks based on quantum dots that can be used to print such devices and in the first demonstration of their technology have produced tiny lasers. Quantum dots are made of semiconductor material grown as nanometre-sized crystals, around a millionth of a millimetre in diameter. The laser colour they produce can be selectively tuned by varying their size.
High tech cling wraps that ‘sieve out’ carbon dioxide from waste gases can help save the world, says Melbourne University chemical engineer, Colin Scholes who developed the technology. The membranes can be fitted to existing chimneys where they capture CO2 for removal and storage. Not only are the new membranes efficient, they are also relatively cheap to produce. They are already being tested on brown coal power stations in Victoria’s La Trobe Valley, Colin says. “We are hoping these membranes will cut emissions from power stations by up to 90 per cent.”
CSIRO is spearheading a $9 million-a-year project to help ease Australia’s current water management crisis.
A new national Water Resources Observation Network (WRON), set up by CSIRO through the Water for a Healthy Country Flagship, is aiming to improve water management, and make a 20 per cent cost saving in the process.
Staff in a Monash University-led project, called Water Sensitive Cities, believe the time is right for a bold idea that could produce 20 to 30 per cent of Melbourne’s future water needs.
Annually, almost as much stormwater falls on Melbourne as its citizens use, but only a fraction is captured and reused. Billions of litres of stormwater literally go down the drain and into Port Phillip Bay, degrading the ecological health of Melbourne streams and the bay.
An Australian researcher is leading an international team of scientists developing a clean source of energy from microalgae. The team have developed one algae that not only makes oil for biodiesel production but also generates hydrogen. Commercial hydrogen production uses fossil fuels and produces carbon dioxide.