Water and wastewater management

Water and wastewater management is a significant area of focus for many of our researchers and a highly topical global issue. Brief summaries of our eight key capabilities in this area are as follows:

Water and wastewater treatment:

Our considerable expertise in the performance assessment and optimisation of key water and wastewater treatment processes spans:

  • Activated sludge
  • Membrane bioreactors
  • Dissolved air flotation
  • Microfiltration
  • Ultrafiltration
  • Nanofiltration
  • Reverse osmosis
  • Chlorine disinfection
  • Advanced oxidation processes

Water recycling for potable and non-potable reuse:

Water recycling for potable and non-potable reuse is becoming more common, but has many issues for consideration. Our experts have specialist knowledge in:

  • Process assessment and validation
  • Monitoring and critical control points
  • Regulation and guidelines
  • Public perception
  • Community consultation


Membrane technology is becoming increasingly important for wastewater treatment. UNSW’s UNESCO Centre for Membrane Science and Technology is the leading centre for membrane development in Australia. The capabilities of the centre include:

  • Facilities for the characterisation of the structure, properties and transport mechanisms in synthetic membranes
  • Sustainable membrane processes for environmental and industrial applications
  • Membrane module design
  • Operation and process control
  • Novel membranes and membrane processes
  • Methods to control membrane fouling

Trace organics:

Trace organics are compounds that are known or suspected to be in the aquatic environment but are not commonly regulated or monitored, and whose potential risks to human or ecological health are relatively unknown. Our expertise in trace organics spans:

  • Analytical method development and determination
  • Assessment of chemical contaminant fate during engineered water treatment
  • Environmental processes with a focus on organic contaminants including pharmaceuticals, hormones, disinfection by-products, pesticides and algal toxins

Physicochemical processes in natural and engineered systems:

We have specialist knowledge on the following physicochemical processes in natural and engineered water systems:

  • The transformation and fate of contaminants
  • Transport and immobilisation of radionuclides
  • Algal growth and toxicity
  • Generation of reactive oxygen species
  • Advanced oxidation processes
  • Electrochemical water treatment technologies
  • Nucleation and aggregation phenomena
  • Hydration and crystallisation processes
  • Mineral recovery and tailings management

Odorous and gaseous emissions:

The UNSW Odour Laboratory is a leading edge facility that provides specialist olfactory and chemical analysis for the characterisation of odorous and gaseous emissions from point and area sources.

Cyanobacteria and their toxins:

The Neilan Laboratory of Microbial and Molecular Diversity is an established leader in cyanobacterial research, astrobiology and other aspects of environmental microbiology. The Lab has facilities to:

  • Identify the gene clusters responsible for the production of toxins in several strains of cyanobacteria
  • Investigate the mechanisms of toxin biosynthesis as well as the evolution and regulation of toxin genes

Risk assessment and management:

We have specialists working in water and wastewater risk assessment and management with a particular focus on:

  • Exposure assessment
  • Reliability assessment
  • Hazardous events and failure modes
  • Quantitative microbial risk assessment
  • Quantitative chemical risk assessment
  • Risk management protocols