Water sensitive design through international collaboration

Ginninderra is proposed to become a test-bed for the latest innovation in water sensitive urban design and infrastructure through an international collaboration between CSIRO and the Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology.

As a generally dry country, Australia perpetually faces issues of water availability, storage and prudent use, according to Senior Principal Research Scientist with CSIRO Land and Water, Dr Simon Toze.

“A focus of our water management is to increase water availability in rural and urban environments for both human and environmental purposes,” says Simon. “In Australia we tend to have broad strategies and initiatives to capture, recycle and reduce the use of water where possible.”

“By contrast in Korea, where rain-fed water is relatively abundant, water sustainability issues relate mostly to improving the quality of environmental water.  Korea tends to focus on mechanisms to treat and clean environmental waterways or to add recycled water and cleaned urban stormwater to increase environmental flows.”

Despite these differences, Australia and Korea share common interests in managing water quality and preventing contamination.

Both countries are experiencing issues relating to existing urban developments and the corresponding human and ecological impacts. Changes in climate, increasing urbanisation and growing population, along with increasing needs to protect and improve the local environments, are placing greater demands on regulators and urban planners.

In view of such common issues and complementary research skills and capabilities, Australia and Korea have taken key steps to bolster their collaboration and it is hoped that the Ginninderra initiative will be a prime beneficiary.

A Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2016 between CSIRO Land and Water and the Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT) establishes a collaboration project.  The project: ‘Integrated drainage and supply through water sensitive design’ is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia-Korea Foundation of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

“As we work to combine and exchange the complimentary capabilities and research skills of each organisation, the benefits could be very significant for each country,” says Simon.

KICT research tends to focus on water engineering and treatment capabilities, while CSIRO has a wealth of skills and knowledge related to water quality, treatment assessment and water use efficiencies.

“Following our Australia-Korea Foundation Workshop in November 2016, we are proposing to work together at Ginninderra through an ‘Urban Living Lab’ to be a test bed for potential broad application of knowledge, technologies and infrastructure.”

Participants in the Australia-Korean Foundation Workshop met at CSIRO and
visited Ginninderra and various urban water management sites in Canberra

CSIRO Urban Living Labs are being set up in a number of Australian cities to encourage innovators from wide-ranging urban research backgrounds to come together to create, test and refine innovative products and services in a real-life setting, with the support of CSIRO and research partners. Some of the key activities and outcomes connected with Ginninderra are proposed to include:

Through the Australia-Korea Foundation project agreement, a follow-up workshop to develop the joint research activities is planned for Goyang, South Korea in February or March 2017.

Using science to transform greenfields and cities

Over the past few years one question that has come up is: ‘why would a national science and innovation agency like CSIRO be involved in what appears to be a greenfield development at Ginninderra on the outskirts of Canberra?’

It’s not a difficult question to answer when you consider what CSIRO is, what it has done in the past and what it is planning to do in the future.

CSIRO and its forerunner Commonwealth science organisations has been harnessing science to solve some of the nation’s greatest challenges for 100 years.  Whether it was helping eradicate Prickly Pear or other agricultural pests and weeds, inventing Aerogard, Hendra vaccine, the CSIRO Total Wellbeing diet and fast WIFI, our innovation has improved the lives of people in Australia and throughout the world.

We have been an important part of the Canberra community as we have developed our world-leading plant, animal, insect, agricultural and environmental expertise since 1927.  From our foundation site at Black Mountain we spread to multiple locations (some since closed) from Dickson, Yarralumla, Crace, Campbell, and Ginninderra, through to our involvement with NASA and even the coverage of the moon landing from the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla.

A common thread through CSIRO’s history is our ability to work with others to solve problems and find new solutions. This is capital ‘C’ Collaboration!  Importantly, the ‘I’ in our name stands for ‘industrial’ – so it’s no surprise that we work closely with a wide range of industries and industry collaborators.

All this begs the questions for Ginninderra: ‘What is the national innovation challenge that can be tackled through science here?’ and ‘which are the industries we can work with on solutions?’

What is the great national challenge at Ginninderra?

The science challenge is one of the most formidable ever – to make our cities and urban areas more sustainable for our people, the environment and the resources and future of the planet.

The role of cities and their citizens in our global dilemma can be seen in this infographic below (based on figures quoted in the United Nations Environment Programme report: Cities and Buildings).

The role of cities and their citizens in our global dilemma.

According to that report, cities are where most of the growing world population lives (two thirds of the world by 2030), they consume 75% of global resources, use 80% of energy, and they produce about 75% of greenhouse gas emissions and 50% of world waste.

These same challenges present great opportunities for us to transform city performance along with all the flow-on benefits, through better design and innovation.

CSIRO has a wealth of science knowledge, data, technology and innovation that it can contribute to the ‘whole-of-system’ solutions that are needed. That knowledge and innovation covers fields from mining, materials and manufacturing, energy and renewables, city, land, water, oceans, atmosphere and space; to digital and data solutions, agriculture and food production and heath and biosecurity.

CSIRO also owns and manages a large portfolio of properties, facilities and science platforms that underpin the delivery of our science and innovation. One of our priorities is to make sure we have high quality infrastructure that is used cost-effectively for the benefit of science and the nation.

As an underutilised Commonwealth research asset, CSIRO’s Ginninderra Field Station provides us with an incredible opportunity to bring our science and innovation into real world applications onsite. It’s an opportunity to employ science to push design and delivery to new limits and realise improved social, economic and environmental benchmarks and outcomes.

Ginninderra is a key site among a portfolio of greenfield, urban and inner city locations where CSIRO intends to work with a wide range of partners to push the horizons of urban sustainability.

Collaboration and partnerships are going to be vitally important to the success of this work.   We are already involved with a wide range of government, non-government, community and interest groups and industries with a stake and interest in urban sustainability.

For Ginninderra, one of our key collaborators will be an eventual joint development partner.  Rather than a ‘property developer’ per se, we are seeking a partner that will be able to help us realise this sustainability vision through practical planning, design and on-ground application of the science.

We are excited by the prospect of new and emerging opportunities to work with collaborators in the property and construction industry.  This is now Australia’s largest industry contributing more than a million jobs and $182 billion a year (11% of GDP) to the Australian economy.

We are equally excited about working with the ACT community, government, research and environmental stakeholders in developing something unique and remarkable at Ginninderra.

Citizen-led science is already underway at Ginninderra with the community-led grassland restoration project and this is something we would like to nurture and expand.  Community inspired innovation could also help drive the prospect of a greater range of affordable housing options.

The Ginninderra site is a perfect example of an opportunity for science to make a difference for people and it helps us progress our mission to innovate for tomorrow while helping improve today.

So the question really should be: “why wouldn’t we be involved?’