A University of Queensland-led research team that is radically improving sewer design and management has been awarded a prestigious international prize in Portugal.

The $21 million research project, Sewer Corrosion and Odour: Putting Science in Sewers, is believed to be the world’s largest sewer-related research program.

In Lisbon, the International Water Association awarded the team with the 2014 Global Project Innovation Award (Applied Research).

UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj said the group’s discoveries already had saved the industry partners several hundred million dollars.

“This work is delivering advances in science as well as tangible, practical outcomes,” Professor Høj said.

“The strong partnership between the researchers and the industry organisations has been central to this project’s success.”

Program leader Professor Zhiguo Yuan, from UQ’s Advanced Water Management Centre, said sewerage system corrosion and odour was a huge problem for water utilities globally.

“Our research has uncovered a substantial level of new knowledge, highly advantageous tools and innovative technologies to address these problems,” Professor Yuan said.

The five-year research project brought together researchers from five Australian universities and 11 industry partners, and was supported by the Australian Research Council.

“This was the largest ARC Linkage Program grant for research in the water industry,” Professor Yuan said.

“The utility participants collectively provide wastewater services to about two-thirds of the Australian population.”

“The high level of ARC and industry support that we attracted was due to our water industry partners’ demonstrated leadership, and to the research partners’ excellent capability. Our world-class engineers, microbiologists, materials scientists, analytical chemists and mathematical modellers have developed sustainable solutions to support the cost-effective management of complex sewer corrosion and odour problems.”

“This project will have an enduring impact on the global water industry.”

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