The winners of the Water Minister’s Climate Innovation Challenge…

The Water Minister's Climate Innovation Challenge held its awards ceremony. The recipients of funding were announced, but who?

The Water Minister’s Climate Innovation Challenge award ceremony was held on Tuesday, 5 December, at the headquarters of Melbourne Water. It was an opportunity for water authorities across Victoria to showcase how they will make a difference in the future.

The Water Minister’s Climate Innovation Challenge was a unique opportunity for water corporations. It sought to demonstrate the industry’s commitment towards creating positive outcomes in the face of these challenges in a collective effort to help strengthen our climate resilience and shape the future of our industry. The challenge will provide funding to the winning entrants.

Intelligent Water Networks (IWN) was entrusted by the Hon. Harriet Shing MLC, Minister for Water, and collaborated with the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA).

13 submissions were made to the Climate Innovation Challenge, and six progressed to the final stage.

Finalists for the Water Minister’s Climate Innovation Challenge

Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water (GWMWater)

GWMWater was represented by Will Taylor, an Energy Engineer. GWMWater’s submission was titled the Donald Community Energy Project. It was an opportunity for the water authority to sell renewable energy from its solar farm back into the local grid. GWMWater would also install a community battery to store additional electricity.

Their proposal sought to develop the business community model to provide up to 70 per cent of the electricity needs of the town of Donald.

Central Highlands Water (CHW)

Carsten Berberich is the Head of Environmental Services at CHW. Berberich focused on supporting industry and jobs through the provision of high-quality energy. He argued that Ballarat has considerable opportunities to utilise hydrogen and reduce natural gas use.

The study would support greenhouse gas emissions, help industries transition away from natural gas, improve the sustainability of water management, and investigate new uses for hydrogen.

Yarra Valley Water (YVW), Barwon Water, North East Water (NEWater)

This combined project was titled “Meta-analysis of low carbon cement alternatives for water industry applications.” Dr Lisa Ehrenfried (YVW), Hayley Vinden (Barwon Water) and Dr Jill Fagan (North East Water) presented their project to the ceremony. They focused on how to utilise low-carbon cement alternatives in the construction of new facilities.

The group argued that their project would take the equivalent of 25,300 cars off the road within five years. The trio pointed to their preparatory work. They also said they would be ready to implement much of the project immediately if they received funding from the Water Minister’s Climate Innovation Challenge.

Barwon Water

Emma McKinnon is the circular economy project advisor for Barwon Water. She presented a unique project that would recover the vast majority of cellulose from wastewater. McKinnon pointed out that Australians use an average of 88 rolls of toilet paper annually, representing about 1.5 million trees falling every year.

Citing existing technology in the Netherlands, Barwon Water wanted to conduct a feasibility study. It will include a technical assessment, a financial assessment, market research, and an environmental impact assessment.

Greater Western Water (GWW)

Brock Tunnicliffe is a technical officer at GWW. He spoke about how drone technology could be used to elevate environmental stewardship. It came about by finding a lack of spatial data in two and three dimensions. The absence of data meant that managing environmental projects could be more challenging.

The project aimed to implement drone technology to gather better data while understanding the business requirements for such a project. Tunnicliffe argued that there would be reductions in carbon emissions, improved planning, and improved condition monitoring.

South East Water (SEW)

Joel Segal presented as a treatment & resource recovery planning manager for SEW. The project focused on increasing the industry’s understanding of emissions. He looked at aerobic digesters’ role in emitting nitrous oxide, which is nearly 300 times worse than carbon dioxide.

By using real-time data and building calibrated models, the project aims to monitor the output of emissions from an aerobic digester. This shift to informed, data-driven decisions will significantly reduce SEW’s environmental impact.

The results of the Water Minister’s Climate Innovation Challenge

The Hon. Harriet Shing MLC, Water Minister, provided a video message to the ceremony. As part of her video, she announced that the original prize budget of $60,000 had been increased to $135,000 – a significant uplift.

There were two winners of the Climate Innovation Challenge. The joint project between Yarra Valley Water, Barwon Water, and North East Water (received $20,000) was joined by Barwon Water (received $30,000) as the winners. The runner-up was GWMWater, who received their total project funding request of $85,000.

South East Water received a special commendation. The Minister announced that DEECA and IWN would work directly with South East Water to run their project.

All projects were acknowledged by the Water Minister, who praised IWN for their stewardship of the program.

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