Harbour baths in Copenhagen – Pioneering city to transform their harbour into a swimming a destination. Credit: Nicolai Perjesi

In profile: Simon Lloyd, PhD Student

From Tokyo to Paris to Sydney, an international movement has begun to reclaim urban waterways for recreational use. A ‘swimmable’ river is seen as the pinnacle of urban waterway health, and in addition to offering bragging rights, they can increase pride of place within communities and give a sense of ownership and responsibility over the natural environment.

According to Simon Lloyd, a current PhD student at UNSW, creating a truly swimmable river that communities will embrace is no easy feat, with a unique requirement to combine clever landscape planning with leading water quality science.

Simon is utilising his eight years of experience as a landscape architect to compliment his PhD research at UNSW, where he is developing a multidisciplinary framework to successfully activate urban rivers for recreational use.Simon Lloyd at local rock pool

A keen surfer and swimmer, Simon cares about the current and future health of our waterways. This passion led to his involvement in water sensitive urban design projects in Australia, riverside planning for urban poor communities in south-east Asia, and the design and construction of biological water filtration systems for swimming pools. He says that the common thread through all of these projects is the integration of water sensitive innovations into the design of the built environment.

The innovative framework Simon is currently working on will assess public health risks from environmental exposure to chemical and microbial contaminants, and determine how these risks may be managed through the planning and design of riverside swimming sites.

Simon says that many important considerations are being factored into the framework development.

“From a water quality perspective, we are dealing with historically polluted waterways, with faecal contamination a primary source of contamination presenting health risks to recreational water users,” says Simon.

“Existing recreational water quality guidelines have been tailored to coastal environments, and there are a number of challenges to be overcome when applying these to riverine environments.”

Simon also says that from a built environment perspective, accessibility considerations are paramount.

“Cities in the past have physically turned their backs on rivers, resulting in often inhospitable or inaccessible riverside public space,” says Simon.

“How these new riverside swimming destinations will be accessed and connected to existing public domain—and what they will look like—are equally important to ensure positive community uptake.”

Locally, Simon is working with the Parramatta River Catchment Group (PRCG)—a consortium of Local Government Authorities, state agencies and community groups—to look at 12 proposed swimming sites along the Parramatta River. His research will utilise a selection of these sites as case studies to advance the science around water quality assessment at riverine sites and explore what physical riverside characteristics and infrastructure will be most appealing to the public. The results will help the local waterway managers make informed decisions about river recreation.

The thing I have enjoyed most is collaborating with the different water quality disciplines (...) slowly learning how to understand their language, and bring this back to the built environment

Simon Lloyd, PhD Student

Simon’s PhD is being jointly supervised by UNSW’s Associate Professor Paul Osmond from the Faculty of the Built Environment and Professor Stuart Khan from the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.With UNSW’s Water Research Centre (WRC) and Prof Khan involved in PRCG’s ‘Our Living River’ program, UNSW was a natural choice for Simon, and he has benefited from its cross-disciplinary approach.

“The thing I have enjoyed most is collaborating with the different water quality disciplines in the Water Research Centre, slowly learning how to understand their language, and bring this back to the built environment in different ways,” says Simon.

After completing his PhD, Simon would like to continue to undertake research on sustainable water management that integrates the built environment, engineering and public health professions, within an international development setting.

Image (top): Harbour baths in Copenhagen – Pioneering city to transform their harbour into a swimming a destination. Credit: Nicolai Perjesi

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