China has engaged South Australian water industry experts to direct aquifer recharge trials in an effort to reduce flooding and improve supply.

The consortium of six South Australian companies, known as the Australia China Sponge City Consortium, has opened an office in the Shandong capital Jinan. Work will begin this year on a pilot project in Jinan as part of the Sponge City initiative, which has a budget of up to AU$128 million per city.

Consortium spokesman Geoff Fisher, from Australian Water Environments, said the group would leverage the skills and experience gained from the delivery of several successful aquifer recharge projects in the South Australian capital Adelaide over the past two decades.

“Our role will be threefold: to address flooding and water quality, improve the liveability of Jinan through good design and re-instate the springs and their associated spiritual and cultural value,” he said.

“The city has a world-renowned spring system which is being depleted by rapid urbanisation.

“We’ll be taking our knowledge and years of experience to Jinan but we’ll also be learning from them – for example, they have problems with acid rain which Adelaide doesn’t have, but dealing with that problem will extend our knowledge”.

China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban Rural Development, and Ministries of Finance and Water created the ‘sponge city’ initiative to help prevent flash-flooding in the wet season and capture stormwater and rainwater for use during the dry season.

In April 2015, the Chinese Government announced the first 16 pilot sponge cities including Jinan, a city of about 7 million people.

The six members of the South Australian consortium are Syntec Global, Alano Water, Water Data Services, Aqueon, Hassell and Australian Water Environments.

The Water Industry Alliance is a cluster of 150 water-related organisations focused on sharing South Australia’s water expertise with the world.


CEO Rachel Barratt said the Jinan office would grow as the project developed.

She said the six companies in the consortium had a range of complementary skills to cover the broad range of expertise required for urban water reuse projects.

“In the example of a wetland project there’s a number of technical expertise required from landscape and urban design through to managed aquifer recharge, water quality monitoring, remote sensing and IT,” Barratt.

“These companies have worked together on projects in Adelaide and that’s the collaborative model we are taking to China to provide an integrated solution.”

Rapid urbanisation, poor water management and drainage contributed to more than 230 Chinese cities being affected by floods in 2013.

Barratt said while flood mitigation would be a feature of the projects, improving urban landscapes and water reuse were also important.

She said the stored water would likely be reused for secondary purposes such as industrial use and irrigation.

“It will be about providing a liveable environment that might have wetlands, green space and bicycle trails to draw the community in and at the same time it would have some water treatment through various processes and managing the aquifer recharge,” she said.

“The aquifers in Shandong move a lot faster than the aquifers in South Australia so they will have to design it appropriately with that in mind.”

South Australia is the driest state in the driest continent on earth and has become a world leader in water treatment and reuse technologies.

The state and Shandong Province, which has a population of 100 million, have a 30-year relationship as sister states, paving the way for the collaboration. The Jinan office was officially opened earlier this month during a South Australian Government-led trade mission to China.

Barratt said pre-existing relationships were crucial in securing the deal. She said the visit to Adelaide by a Chinese delegation in September last year also provided an important opportunity to showcase successful water management projects in action.

“We showed them a lot of sites where we have applied this technology so we have really leveraged off of a lot of these existing relationships, which has proved really important,” she said.

“We’ve already been invited to come back for their spring festival and present to other cities in Shandong and then we can look broader than that into other provinces but it is a pretty big market.”

By Andrew Spence

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