Coastal and estuarine management

UNSW’s Water Research Laboratory (WRL) is considered the birthplace of coastal engineering in Australia. In operation for over 50 years, WRL undertakes a huge range of ‘blue sky’, fundamental, and applied coastal and estuarine research.

Coastal engineering and management: 

Our work in coastal engineering and management combines expertise from a range of disciplines. With the largest coastal hydraulics laboratory in the country, we are able to explore and address:

  • Coastal processes
  • Coastal hazard definition and inundation
  • Foreshore revetment design and testing
  • Dredging and beach nourishment
  • Design optimisation of coastal structures, harbours, ports and marinas
  • Surfing reefs

In addition, we are developing optimal methods for:

  • Coastal climate change adaptation
  • Remediation of historic seawalls
  • Innovative and traditional coastal structures
  • ‘Real time’ coastal monitoring and measurement
  • Impact assessment of near shore coastal structures on beach planform
  • Forensic coastal engineering

Environmental engineering

Our environmental engineers have considerable specialist knowledge in how technological advances are impacting on the coastal and estuarine environment, particularly in the areas of:

  • Port and harbour hydrodynamics
  • The fate and transport of contaminants
  • Riverbank and boating assessments
  • Sediment transport
  • Acid sulphate soils
  • The impacts of sewage outfalls on the marine environment
  • Dredge plume management
  • Environmental fluid mechanics including multiphase flow, stratification and re-aeration

Civil engineering hydraulics: 

Civil engineering hydraulics is principally concerned with the flow and conveyance of fluids, particularly water and sewage. Our specialist areas of knowledge include:

  • Design optimisation and performance assessment of hydraulic structures in urban and rural environments (such as stormwater systems, dam outlet works, energy dissipaters, ocean outfalls, spillways, levees, fish passages and flood control structures)
  • Hydraulics of industrial applications (such as pump stations, hydro and thermal power stations, and water and wastewater treatment plants)
  • Physical and numerical modelling of turbulent flows (including fluid-structure interactions, air-water flows as well as in stationary and transitional flows)

Estuarine management:

Our estuaries are important conservation areas and play an important role in the food chain. At the same time, urban areas developed alongside estuaries are often low lying and prone to flooding. Our specialists have crucial knowledge and practical experience regarding:

  • Estuarine and river processes
  • Tidal and wetland restoration
  • Broad-based multidisciplinary research to identify, preserve and enhance the resilience of species and habitats in urban rivers, estuaries and harbours that have high ecosystem and conservation value
  • Enhancing the capacity of relevant government departments to make key management decisions