Project to transform urban water system receives $3.5M in ARC funding

Picture of dripping tap
Image credit: Luis Tosta via Unsplash

Professor Tim Fletcher from the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Science has been awarded more than $3.5 million from an Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Industry Fellowship to tackle the urgent challenges faced by the urban water industry.

Cities suffer both flooding and drought, and the project, Making optimal use of stormwater in cities: a market-driven smart-grid, will bring the power of markets and Real-Time Control technology to confront these issues and transform the use of stormwater.

The project will examine how the use of a smart-grid network could enable consumers to reduce their water demand – by harnessing urban stormwater – as well as incentivising the release of water to drought-affected streams, and mitigating flood-risk by drawing down water storages prior to large storms.

Professor Fletcher will work with industry partner Melbourne Water Corporation on the project, and said he is excited to turn this idea into reality.

“We believe we can do for the urban water grid what solar panels have done for the electricity grid,” Professor Fletcher said.

“We can create a network of connected rainwater tanks that actually pay their owners for contributions they make to reducing floods, supplying water to streams in drought, and reducing their own demand for drinking water.”

University of Melbourne Dean of Science, Professor Moira O’Bryan congratulated Professor Fletcher on this outstanding achievement.

“The ARC Laureate is one of the most prestigious research awards and I’m delighted that Tim is being recognised for his innovative work in water supply, flood mitigation and protection of waterway ecosystems,” Professor O’Bryan said.

“The work that he and the team in the Waterway Ecosystem Research Group do with Melbourne Water demonstrates the impact research can bring when collaborating with industry partners to solve real world challenges and create change that benefits the wider community.”

Professor Fletcher’s ARC Fellowship was fully funded for $3,528,655, and will also receive $1,271,637 in University funding, as well as support from his partner organisation, Melbourne Water Corporation.

The program will build the capacity and products to accelerate adoption of smart water technology, establishing Australia as an international market leader at a time when the market for this technology is exploding.

The platform will be commercialised through IP sharing arrangements with private companies and Melbourne Water, who will facilitate translation through established partnerships with technology providers, retail water authorities, local government and policy-makers.