When Engineering Collides with Environments

[ Music ]>>Every world water report,
and we are now the fifth, says that we have a
water management crisis. We don’t have a water crisis. There’s plenty of
water on this planet. We are the blue planet. We have plenty of
water, but we waste it. We are extremely wasteful. Ninety five percent of all
our rivers are overused. And yet we only need 15
percent of that water. So that tells you the
gap, what we actually need for our purposes and what we
use is a factor of five out. So cutting those losses in
half should be possible, at least from an
engineering point of view. But nobody cares. Partly because water
doesn’t cost you anything and everybody grows up believing that water is their
God given right. And they will kill you
for it, if necessary. Evan is the Dean
of Engineering and I’m the Deputy
Dean of Engineering, and it’s interesting he works
in networks and water supply and I work in water quality,
and it’s just very interesting that those two have
always been seen as completely separate areas. Australia has a third
world country problem in a first world
country environment. We have our water is
significantly under stress. Climate change is going to
make significant differences for us and El Nino is at a
much larger and longer lasting than what we had in the past. So [inaudible] that are longer
than the ten years and often in our history is remembered
will be commonplace. If I look at something like
Melbourne, around 90 percent of the water that comes
into the city actually goes out through its waste
water treatment plants and gets thrown away. Typically on an open
channel you would deliver 40 to 50 percent more
water than necessary. As a consequence the
farmer took what he needed and then all the other
water was just passed. So we reinstalled an entire
measurement infrastructure to develop a mathematical system that then could estimate how
much water was in the channels, where it was and how
fast it was flowing, so we got a complete
water balance. I’ve certainly
grown a better product, a cleaner product,
a better product. And we’ve been able to achieve that by fast watering
and control watering. I’ve been irrigating
for close to 40 years, might be even a bit more. And to actually learn so much in one year made my other 39
years look pretty average. The rule we used to always
have was we could delude pollution away. We can’t do that anymore,
there’s too many chemicals in our society to do that. We’ve got to actually
break the pollution cycle. And that’s the main
philosophy that we’re using. The farmer can
say okay I’m buying. If they buy then the computer
will instruct the entire system to automatically adjust its
water flows in order to deliver that farm the water that they
requested fully automated without any intervention
of any human beings. So we reduced water losses
and given a superior service. And at this point in time we
just doing some evaluations of the system and farmers
indicate 100 percent productivity gain on their farm
with the same amount of water. If you think that
you can solve a problem in the Murray-Darling Basin of
Australia and you’re really good at it, you should be
able to solve a problem in the Mekong Delta,
you should be able to solve a problem
in the Yellow River. [ Music ]

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