Drinking water management and extreme weather events

The UNSW Global Water Institute (GWI) Drinking Water Management and Extreme Weather Events program is led by Prof Stuart Khan in the School of Civil & Environmental Engineering. This program has completed a number of national and international projects relating to understanding water quality impacts that may occur as a consequence of extreme weather events.

Extreme weather events that may impact water quality include:

  • Bushfires (wildfires)
  • Heavy rainfall and floods
  • Superstorms and high winds
  • Drought
  • Extreme heat
  • Unseasonable extreme cold

This program has a number of established collaborators, including Hazen & Sawyer (USA), Griffith University and Water Futures (Australia). Project funding has been provided by the (US) Water Research Foundation and Water Research Australia (WaterRA), we well as a wide variety of water industry partners.

In addition to a series of academic publications (shown below), this program has produced a concise guidance document, hosted on the WaterRA website, to aid preparation, planning, ongoing operation and recovery of safe drinking water systems during and following extreme weather events. 



  • Leusch FDL, Khan SJ, Deere D, Cunliffe D, Neale PA and Humpage A (2020) Deriving safe short-term chemical exposure values (STEV) for drinking water. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 110, 104545. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yrtph.2019.104545
  • Khan SJ, Deere D, Leusch FDL, Humpage A, Jenkins M, Cunliffe D, Fitzgerald SK and Stanford BD (2017) Lessons and guidance for the management of safe drinking water during extreme weather events. Environmental Science: Water Research and Technology, 3(2), 262-277. DOI: 10.1039/c6ew00165c
  • Deere D, Leusch FDL, Humpage A, Cunliffe D and Khan SJ (2017) Hypothetical scenario exercises to improve planning and readiness for drinking water quality management during extreme weather events. Water Research, 111, 100-108. DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2016.12.028
  • Khan SJ, Deere D, Leusch FDL, Humpage A, Jenkins M and Cunliffe D (2015) Extreme weather events: Should drinking water quality management systems adapt to changing risk profiles? Water Research, 85, 124-136. DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2015.08.018
  • Fitzgerald SK, Stanford BD and Khan SJ (2014) Lessons from a decade of extreme weather events for Australian drinking water suppliers: A review of 10 case studies from five Australian states. Water: Journal of the Australian Water Association, 41(2), 144-149.
  • Stanford BD; Wright B; Routt JC; Debroux JF; Khan SJ (2014) Water Quality Impacts of Extreme Weather-Related Events, Water Research Foundation.
  • Khan SJ, Routt JC, Debroux J, Wright B and Stanford BD (2012) Water quality impacts from extreme weather-related events: Findings from Australia. Australian Water Association OzWater. Sydney, NSW, Australia.
  • Fitzgerald SK, Stanford BD and Khan SJ (2012) Lessons from a decade of extreme weather events for Australian drinking water supplies. Australian Water Association ACT Water Matters Conference. Canberra, ACT, Australia.