Investment in Australia’s desalination research has reached $39 million in just three years, building on the country’s $12 billion investment in six major desal plants during its “desalination decade” 2004-2013.
The National Centre of Excellence in Desalination Australia (NCEDA), based at Murdoch University’s Rockingham campus, now harnesses the expertise of 300 government, academic and industry scientists with its 44 innovative research projects supported by more than 90 industry and academic partners.
The Centre was founded at Murdoch in 2009 and has so far leveraged additional industry cash and in kind funding of $28 million on top of its Australian Government Water for the Future initiative funding to date of $11 million.
NCEDA has hosted over 900 visitors to its $5 million one-year-old Rockingham Desalination Research Facility and water science attraction the Desal Discovery Centre at Murdoch, which is a finalist in the 2012 WA Water Awards this month.
The Centre has awarded 27 scholarships worth $970,000 to Australian Honours and PhD university students, facilitating the employment of graduates within the industry.
NCEDA CEO Neil Palmer says the nation’s wise investment in desalination is timely as it reaches a pivotal point in water security with official long term predictions heralding longer and deeper droughts for several large populated states.
“Desalination is necessary insurance against Australia’s growing climatic instability,” Mr Palmer says.
“Desal is the only new and sustainable climate-resilient source of water available for our increasingly thirsty population.”
Mr Palmer says NCEDA research projects are investigating the role desalination can play in sustainable food production, with the aim of helping Australia become the food bowl for Asia.
“Our researchers are also working to provide safe, clean drinking water supplies for rural and remote communities using solar desalination, and looking at how Australia can replace costly materials imports and create new export opportunities.
“Centre scientists are continually improving desalination technology to further lower energy consumption of desal plants and to increase the use of renewable energies in water production.”
Australia’s six major coastal seawater desalination plants purchase renewable energy from wind and solar farms, and the technology is less energy-intensive than when compared to provision of household electricity or heating.
Mr Palmer says NCEDA experts, scientists and research projects are becoming increasingly sought after internationally, helping to build Australia’s reputation in scientific excellence and endeavour.
The Centre’s newly appointed Commercialisation Manager, Tymen Brom, is working with scientists and supporting partners to develop promising business opportunities with economic benefits for Australia.
NCEDA has just released details of its international achievements in desalination research excellence in its 2011-2012 Annual Report.