Barwon Water has received recognition for two climate change research projects undertaken by its staff, which have been announced as the joint winners of the Victorian Water Minister’s Climate Innovation Challenge (WMCIC). 

The challenge aimed to identify and reward groundbreaking projects addressing climate change within the water sector.

Barwon Water was recognised for both ‘Meta-analysis of low carbon cement alternatives for water industry applications’, and ‘Cellulose recovery from wastewater’ research projects, which were declared joint winners of the award.

Barwon Water Managing Director, Shaun Cumming, said that he was proud of employees Hayley Vinden and Emma McKinnon, respectively, for research that puts the organisation at the cutting edge of emissions reduction in the water sector.

“We are thrilled to be acknowledged in the Water Minister’s Climate Innovation Challenge,” Mr Cumming said. 

“These victories underscore our commitment to pioneering sustainable solutions in the water industry and achieving zero net emissions by 2030.”

Meta-analysis of low carbon cement alternatives for water industry applications’ was a collaboration between Yarra Valley Water, North East Water, and Barwon Water.

It focused on identifying greener alternatives to concrete, a major contributor to global carbon emissions.

Cement, which makes up a significant portion of concrete, generates approximately eight per cent of the world’s carbon emissions.

The winning team, led by Lisa Ehrenfried (Yarra Valley Water), Hayley Vinden (Barwon Water), and Jill Fagan (North East Water), was awarded a $30,000 grant to explore low-carbon cement alternatives and aims to create a blueprint for global implementation within the water industry.

The second award winning project, ‘Cellulose recovery from wastewater’, was led by Barwon Water’s Emma McKinnon and received a $20,000 grant. Ms McKinnon’s project addresses the environmental impact of toilet paper consumption, a significant contributor to deforestation.

The Australian-first solution explored in the research extracts high-quality cellulose fibres from flushed toilet paper, recovering 82 per cent to 98 per cent of the cellulose content.

The versatile raw material has applications in civil engineering, construction, agriculture, chemicals, energy, and paper and cardboard production, promoting a circular economy and reducing environmental impact.

Notably, the project also demonstrated a 20 per cent reduction in energy consumption in wastewater treatment, a ten per cent increase in treatment plant capacity, and the potential to save at least one tree and prevent up to 2.5t of CO₂ emissions for every tonne of cellulose upcycled from wastewater.

At Barwon Water’s Black Rock Water reclamation plant, this equates to saving seven to eight trees a day and preventing 19t of carbon emissions.

Barwon Water said that it is appreciative of the support received through the WMCIC funding, which will contribute to proving the feasibility of these innovative projects in an Australian context.

Barwon Water has said that it is dedicated to advancing sustainability and driving positive change within the water industry.

Featured image: Barwon Water Managing Director Shaun Cumming (centre) with employees Emma McKinnon (left) and Hayley Vinden (right). Image credit: Barwon Water. 

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