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SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation

14 November 2023

Ensure available and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.


Water Resource Management

Sustainability and management of our valuable water resources, both supply and quality, is one of the biggest challenges facing Aotearoa New Zealand today. Water Resource Management studies investigates sustainable techniques to protect our freshwater resources and prevent further stresses and hazards upon this vulnerable commodity. Our School of Earth and Environment offers an extensive range of study options related to water resource management. Study options include freshwater resources, and freshwater science field skills, advanced water resources, water quality and quantity assessment, and water management, policy and planning. Students can also learn to evaluate the effects of domestic and commercial use on our aquatic ecosystems through practical survey fieldwork.

Health Education for Goal 6

Global health challenges cross international borders and responses require international cooperation. Our Global Health course offers students the opportunity to explore key and emerging challenges and opportunities facing global health, major public health developments that have improved health outcomes for all, and how economic and political processes have shaped responses to global health problems. A major topic in classes explores key economic and environmental developments that have improved health outcomes including sanitation and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Seafood waste product could help our streams

Associate Professor Aisling O’Sullivan and Professor Tom Cochrane are researching the use of waste seashells as a solution to reduce contaminants, such as nitrate and phosphorus, from our streams. Greenlipped mussels are a huge industry in New Zealand, producing over 90,000 tonnes of shells every year. Using mussel shells as a solution would help to combat nitrate leaching and meet climate change targets and would also help to reduce waste going to landfill by converting it into a high value, reusable product. The technology would help enable farmers to meet new regulations by reducing the number of nitrates leaching from their land, while providing a natural lime fertiliser and soil enhancer from the waste seashells. Plans involve filters being reused at the end of their lifespan, as a ‘regenerated’ filter or being crushed to make an organic fertiliser that can be applied back on the farm.

Waterways Centre for Freshwater Management

The Waterways Centre, located at UC, is the first such centre to be established in any New Zealand university. Established in 2009, the Centre is a joint partnership between UC and Lincoln University. It is run by core staff and supported by a multi-disciplinary group of approximately 50 academic staff members with expertise in freshwater issues, drawn from both Universities. The Centre offers both undergraduate and postgraduate teaching programmes and qualifications, including research programmes. It also provides resources to learn more about freshwater systems and their response to change, and general information relevant to Canterbury’s water systems.

Student recognition in Youth Awards

The passion and hard work of UC student, Alyce Lysaght, was recognised by the community through the Canterbury Youth Awards. Alyce is a final-year Natural Resources Engineering student, minoring in Water and Environmental Engineering Systems. As well as producing her podcast series, she has been the Engineering representative for Te Akatoki, and was on the Infrastructure Commission Te Ao Māori testing panel, as well as mentoring Māori EngMe students at UC.

On-campus water restoration and conservation

Our Sustainability Office is an on-campus hub for students and staff and the wider community, interested in how they can create positive change and promote sustainable practices in their own lives and spaces. The water focused initiative run by the office informs our students and staff about water restoration and conservation. UC’s potable water is sourced from aquifers underneath the city which are fed by water from the Southern Alps. Staff and students can learn more about where our water comes from, how it is being used, how they can help conserve it, and learn about restoration work on the three waterways flowing through our own Ilam campus. There are also lots of helpful tips and free resources available, including a pocket map which shows the locations of the nearest drinking water fountains on campus to refill your bottle.

Reusing water on campus

In order to reduce the impact of UC’s water requirements, UC's building design code specifies the use of rainwater harvesting, where a minimum of 2 months average annual rainfall must be captured, stored and reticulated to provide a minimum 50% toilet water used. The design guidelines are applied to all new buildings, and examples have already been commissioned and are in use. We measure how much water is collected and used, in order to track and validate our water reduction strategy.


Centre for EcoLogical Technology Solutions

UC’s Centre for EcoLogical Technical Solutions research is mostly on Clean Water Technologies – both on pollution prevention and pollution mitigation. Research is conducted in partnership
with councils, Iwi and industry. Associate Professor Aisling O’Sullivan leads the diverse research group. Apart from clean water research, which included Associate Professor O’Sullivan patenting the storm water downpipe technology called Storminator™, other research projects include water quality monitoring and modelling, life cycle assessment involving quantifying whole-of-life environmental impacts of current and future wastewater treatment systems, and engineering education to enhance engineering students’ competency in sustainability.


Recognising Emerging Career Researchers

The Early and Emerging Career Researcher Award recognises outstanding contributions to research made by a UC academic in the first decade of their career. Dr Jonathan Tonkin won the award in 2020. He is leading research seeking solutions on how to prepare freshwater ecosystems for an ever more uncertain future. Globally, he is recognised for his theoretical work in this area and also for his leadership on communicating the pressing need for new approaches to managing river flows and forecasting tools. In Aotearoa, his research findings paved the way to improving access to ecosystems for native migratory fish.


Clean NZ Water

Water pollution is one of the biggest issues facing Aotearoa. UC’s Associate Professor Aisling O’Sullivan is leading a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional team of nationwide researchers on a project aiming to help reverse water pollution with innovative sustainable treatment technologies, such as 3D-printed water filters made from biomaterials. “With Māori and iwi, we are developing a valuable project which has the potential to disrupt the water treatment sector – and most importantly return Te Mana o te Wai to our ecosystems and tangata whenua,” Associate Professor O’Sullivan says.


Students Tackle Tongan Water Challenges

A real-life challenge was given to a group of UC final-year students. The challenge centred on Felemea, a real remote village in Tonga, which needed clean drinking water but had limited electricity to run a processing plant. The student team had to create an economically viable plan for a small-scale plant to desalinate and sterilise drinking water for Felemea. The project idea came from UC’s Geomechanics Laboratory Manager, Siale Faitotonu. A former high school teacher in Tonga, Siale visited Felemea on a UC research trip at the start of 2020. “This project is good for the students and for the community. Hopefully it will become a reality because that would be a blessing for Felemea, and there are also other islands in Tonga having similar problems with water, who might be able to use the same kind of processing plant,” he says. Siale was recently made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2021.


Campus Waterways Restoration

The Waterways Action group is responsible for the Campus Waterways project aimed at restoring the ecological health and diversity of three campus waterways. The Group and Facilities Services work together to improve UC waterways, and their focus is on improving base flow (water quantity), reducing contamination (water quality) and improving habitat. In 2020 we switched from an automatic system to a manual system in using artesian water to heat our Erskine Building. This change enabled water to flow into campus waterways throughout the entire year, thereby reducing the impact on stream life. Progress was also made with filtering out contaminants, with significant work done installing storm-water filters to downpipes in ‘hotspot’ campus locations.


Trials to Reduce Nitrates in Canterbury Waterways

Trials commenced in 2020 to reduce nitrates in Waitaha Canterbury waterways, backed by the Department of Conservation and Fonterra, with support from UC. A small springfed farm waterway near Springston was chosen as a suitable site for the installation of an innovative twostep solution involving a woodchip bioreactor and sediment trap. Professor Jon Harding, Canterbury Waterway Rehabilitation Experiment (CAREX) Science Lead from UC, says testing and proving solutions will ultimately help farmers, landowners, water management agencies and others be
able to take action and make a tangible difference. Monitoring will continue for the year, with results and updates to be published.


Water Resources Education and Research

UC has a range of innovative education and research options for the sustainable management of this critical resource, including:
• Water Resource Management PhD
• Master’s Theses - topic of relevance to Water Resource Management
• Water Quality and Quantity Assessment course
• Research and Communication Methods course
• Applied Hydrogeology course
• Advanced Water Resources course – jointly run by UC and Lincoln University
• Water Management, Policy and Planning course – jointly run by UC and Lincoln University

SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation. Ensure available and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
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