UQ is an international leader in environmental engineering and water research, rated at the highest level possible – well above world standard – in the 2012 Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) exercise: UQ was the only university in Australia to achieve this rating.

The talent of our Environmental Engineering and Water Management researchers is recognised through prestigious awards, including one Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, two Fellows of the International Water Association, and the 2013 Australian Water Association Water Professional of the Year (the first time that this was awarded to an academic).

UQ innovates in water-related research, delivering world-class science in both fundamental and applied areas. UQ has led the development of sewer corrosion and odour management technologies that have been taken up by some of the largest water utilities in Australia, saving millions of dollars per year in corrosion loss and maintenance costs, and limiting chemical loads to wastewater, significantly reducing its environmental footprint.

Our research has also led to best practice guidelines for mine water management, new methods for assigning environmental and social values to water, and evaluation methods that are widely applied by the Australian minerals industry to gauge water use efficiency.  

Our research is embedded in the software used worldwide by consulting engineers, government agencies and NGOs charged with protecting people, ecosystems and infrastructure from coastal erosion, inundation hazards and climate change. UQ is also at the forefront of research into the complex interactions between groundwater and surface water systems.

UQ researchers have a wide network of partners including state, national and international government departments, the Minerals Council of Australia, international mining companies, all major water utilities in Australia, the meat processing industry and the agro-industrial sector.

UQ’s Environmental Engineering and Water Management research is concentrated in the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology (EAIT) within the School of Civil Engineering, School of Chemical Engineering, and the Advanced Water Management Centre; and also in the Sustainable Minerals Institute. 

UQ has particular expertise in the areas of: 

  • Environmental Hydrology and Water Resources
  • Coastal Engineering
  • Wastewater Treatment and Management
  • Sustainable Water Management in the Resource Industry
  • Aquatic Ecosystem Impact Assessment and Monitoring 

Environmental Engineering and Water Management in brief

  • More than 20 full-time equivalent researchers, with collaborators in fields including Agriculture and Food Sciences, Ecology, the Physical and Geographical Sciences, Environmental Science, and Economics.
  • More than 270 publications since 2008
  • More than $23 million in research funding since 2008
  • Environmental Engineering rated at the highest level – well above world standard – in the 2012 Excellence in Research for Australia exercise. UQ was the only institution in Australia to achieve the rating.

Highlights of UQ Environmental Engineering and Water Management

Environmental hydrology, water resources, and coastal engineering 

Highly topical research across the Environmental Hydrology and Water Resources group (EHWR) and Coastal Engineering Group (CEG) addresses questions that underpin many water, environment and resource issues faced by society. This spans from the top of catchment stream systems, through upland lakes, lowland rivers, estuaries, coastal lagoons and embayments to the near coastal ocean, each interacting strongly with groundwater, with field sites located in South-East Queensland, northern Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef, New South Wales, and Pacific Ocean atolls and islands. 

  • The EHWR's leading-edge monitoring-modelling-management approach is championing the sustainable development of water environments. This approach uses tools to better understand important biophysical, social and economic factors that are essential for moving towards a more sustainable use of water environments.
  • The CEG conducts field, laboratory and numerical investigations into coastal and riparian processes and ecosystems, and coastal groundwater dynamics, with a strong focus on mitigating natural hazards and anthropogenic impacts. Current research, in collaboration with the Global Change Institute and the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), investigates the impact of sea level rise on coral reefs, reef island shorelines and salt marshes.

Wastewater treatment and management

The Advanced Water Management Centre (AWMC) is an international centre of excellence in innovative water technology and management: it is one of the few research entities in Australia with programs covering the entire urban water cycle. One key focus of the Centre is integrated urban water management – performing fundamental and applied research, not only on various components of urban water systems (e.g. drinking water production, water distribution, wastewater collection and conveyance, wastewater treatment and resource recovery), but also on their interactions. 

For almost 20 years the AWMC has developed leading expertise in education, research and consulting working in close partnership with government and industry users. Its current research portfolio consists of seven integrated programs directed toward achieving sustainable outcomes for the water industry including protecting our water resources and critical infrastructure.

AWMC’s particular strength is the close integration of biological science, process engineering and informatics. This unique combination forms the basis for groundbreaking research and offers exciting opportunities for the development and application of user-specific solutions to challenging environmental problems.

The CRC for Water Sensitive Cities (CRCWSC) was established in 2012 with the Eastern Region Hub based at UQ, located at the AWMC.  CRCWSC brings together inter-disciplinary research expertise and thought-leadership to undertake research in collaboration with over 80 research, industry and government partners to deliver socio-technical urban water management solutions. 

Sustainable water management in the resource industry 

The Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) consists of seven research centres, which support the move to more sustainable resource industry practices. Although water management is an increasingly common theme across the seven SMI centres, the focal point for water management research is the Centre for Water in the Minerals Industry (CWiMI).

CWiMI was created in 2004 to develop new methods for accessing and managing surface and groundwater resources, new water treatment methods to control water quality, improved management of tailings decant and improved understanding and management of the ecological, economic and social risks associated with mining.

With internationally renowned expertise in water management and geohydrology, CWiMI is ideally placed to address the challenges facing sustainable development in the minerals industry over the next decade. These challenges, including a decline in ore grade, generally increased competition for fresh water, and in places reduced water availability due to climate change, present new and complex hydrogeological problems. Rapid development of the resources sector in some nations is also generating pressure for effective governance of water, creating social tensions and potential risks to ecosystems.

SMI is at the forefront of research efforts to assist the resource industry and governments in managing these problems.