Wastewater Sludge Management and Use

Wastewater treatment produces sludge that contains a mixture of bacterial cells, fibres, inorganic particles, dissolved matter, and extracellular polymers. The extracellular polymer is exuded by bacteria during digestion and consists of various proteins, organic acids, lipids, and polysaccharides that bind the other suspended components together. Sludge is typically stabilised and dewatered prior to disposal. Disposal options include landfill, incineration, and land application as a fertiliser. In a circular water economy, sludge represents potential energy either through anaerobic digestion to produce biogas or calorific value through incineration. Likewise, treated sludge can be used as a fertiliser. However, there are several issues, for example, sludge is difficult to dewater and may contain contaminants such as heavy metals and chemicals. This panel discussion will deliberate over these issues and highlight the challenges around sludge that the wastewater treatment industry faces.

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Meet the panelists

Jacqui Hickey, Murray Darling Basin Authority

As Acting General Manager, Applied Science at the Murray Darling Basin Authority, Jacqui oversees the investment in and application of science as a key foundation for water management and policy. Previously, she led the River Murrays Operations team at the Authority, responsible for the operation of the River Murray System including the delivery of water for the environment. Throughout her career, which includes a range of surface water management roles in public and private sectors across Victoria and Western Australia, science has always played an important role. For the Basin, this has included helping to improve river operations, inform robust policy settings and guide the delivery of water for the environment.  As a University of Melbourne engineering graduate, Jacqui is pleased to have the opportunity to share her thoughts and experiences on how the Basin Plan is helping to restore the environment.

Mark Bailey, Goulburn Murray Water 

Dr Mark Bailey is Manager, Water Resources with Goulburn-Murray Water. He has nearly 30 years of experience in the areas of river operations, flood management, water quality, resource allocation, and water policy, as well as a PhD in catchment hydrology. At Goulburn-Murray Water, Mark oversees surface water and groundwater system planning and operation across much of northern Victoria, and is significantly involved in the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. His teams comprise River Operations, Groundwater and Streams, Water Quality and Drainage Systems, working on water policy with Victorian government departments, their interstate equivalents and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.  He is also Goulburn-Murray Water’s delegated Resource Manager for northern Victoria’s regulated surface water systems, responsible for the seasonal determinations that allocate water to Victorian entitlement holders each year.

Debbie Hudson, Bureau of Meteorology 
Dr Debbie Hudson is a Principal Research Scientist at the Bureau of Meteorology focusing on sub-seasonal and seasonal climate prediction. She has over 20 years of experience in climate science, and has previously worked at the UK Met Office and the University of Cape Town. Debbie works on progressing the Bureau's seasonal forecast system and developing products from R&D into operations and services. She leads the research team responsible for developing a model for seasonal prediction, including system development, model evaluation and verification, post-processing, understanding predictability, and applications. She previously led the team focussing on seasonal forecast applications. The forecast system and associated products are widely used throughout Australia by the public and for agricultural and water resource management. Its outputs provide data for hydrological models to produce seasonal forecasts for the water sector.

QJ Wang, the University of Melbourne 

QJ Wang is a Professor of Hydrological Forecasting at the University of Melbourne. Prior to his position at the University, QJ spent ten years working at CSIRO, where he led water forecasting research that underpinned the streamflow forecasting systems now used in the Bureau of Meteorology. In 2018, he led the independent expert review on potential impacts of groundwater Sustainable Diversion Limits and irrigation efficiency projects on river flow volume under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. QJ’s other research interests include statistical hydrology, flood inundation modelling, hydrological modelling and optimisation, irrigation, and regional planning. His qualifications include a Bachelor of Engineering from Tsinghua University and an MSc and PhD from National University of Ireland, Galway.

Sharon Davies (Chair), the University of Melbourne
Sharon is a Senior Enterprise Fellow at the University of Melbourne. She has more than 20 years of experience in the public sector, at both the state and federal levels, leading water and natural resource management policy, technical and R&D programs. Throughout her career she has focussed on bridging science and policy to inform decision making. In 2011 Sharon was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Harvard University to work with the Harvard Water Security Initiative. She is one of 80 women from around the world selected as part of the 2020 Homeward Bound women in STEMM leadership program. She has a PhD in Catchment Hydrology and is a Director of Water Practice Consulting.

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