A research team from the University of Queensland has won a prestigious international prize in Portugal for their work on radically improving sewer design and management. The team's $21 million project, ‘Sewer Corrosion and Odour: Putting Science in Sewers’, is believed to be the world’s largest sewer-related research program.

The research team was awarded the 2014 Global Project Innovation Award (Applied Research) in Lisbon by the International Water Association.

The five-year research project brought together researchers from five Australian universities and 11 industry partners, and was supported by the Australian Research Council.

UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj said the group’s discoveries already had saved the industry partners several hundred million dollars.

According to Professor Høj, the research work is delivering advances in science as well as tangible, practical outcomes, adding that the strong partnership between the researchers and the industry organisations has been central to the project’s success.

Program leader Professor Zhiguo Yuan from UQ’s Advanced Water Management Centre explained that sewerage system corrosion and odour was a huge problem for water utilities globally. The five-year research by the UQ-led team uncovered a substantial level of new knowledge, highly advantageous tools and innovative technologies to address these problems.

Describing the funding as the largest ARC Linkage Program grant for research in the water industry, Professor Yuan said that the high level of ARC and industry support for the project was due to their water industry partners’ demonstrated leadership, and to the research partners’ excellent capability. According to Professor Yuan, the utility participants collectively provide wastewater services to about two-thirds of the Australian population.

He adds that their world-class engineers, microbiologists, materials scientists, analytical chemists and mathematical modellers have developed sustainable solutions to support the cost-effective management of complex sewer corrosion and odour problems. He is confident the project will have an enduring impact on the global water industry.

The project partners are: The University of New South Wales, The University of Newcastle, The University of Sydney, Curtin University of Technology, Sydney Water Corporation, Barwon Region Water Corporation, CH2MHILL, City of Gold Coast, Hunter Water Corporation, Melbourne Water Corporation, South Australian Water Corporation, South East Water Limited, Veolia Water Australia and New Zealand, Water Research Australia Limited, and Water Corporation Western Australia.