PhD student granted $50,000 EQC research funding

05 September 2013

A UC PhD student has received $50,000 of Earthquake Commission research funding to look at the resilience of sewerage systems after earthquakes and other natural disasters.

PhD student granted $50,000 EQC research funding

UC doctoral student Melanie Liu.

A University of Canterbury (UC) PhD student has been granted $50,000 of Earthquake Commission research funding to look at the resilience of sewerage systems following earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Engineering management postgraduate student Melanie Liu will research sewerage systems and investigate mitigation of potential risk from earthquakes as part of business-as-usual asset management.

"My research, supervised by Dr Sonia Giovinazzi, will examine sewerage system resilience. It will help sewerage system managers in New Zealand and elsewhere in the world to make comprehensive and sophisticated decisions for reconstruction and rehabilitation actions at the post-earthquake stage.

"This project will directly contribute to Christchurch and New Zealand by delivering resilient sewerage systems and effective decision support systems.

"The holistic project management framework for sewerage systems will be applicable and suitable for both New Zealand and overseas countries," Liu says.

Most sewer components are vulnerable to transient ground motion and earthquake-induced permanent ground deformations and liquefaction as they are buried under the earth. Consequently, the probability of damage to sewer assets triggered by a catastrophic earthquake is pretty high.

The malfunction of a wastewater system will impact public health and community wellbeing, pose an environmental hazard, create unusable land, and cause serious inconvenience for both rescuers and residents.

Following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, the wastewater system sustained the most severe damage and took a long time to recover the basic sanitary service for the local community.

"Currently, there is no method or tool available to support the seismic risk assessment and mitigation for sewerage systems and the comparison of different reparation / rehabilitation strategies while targeting, post-earthquake, increased sewerage systems resilience.

"The great learning and contributions made by Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (SCIRT) and Christchurch City Council (CCC) while addressing post-quake recovery of sewerage systems needs to be translated and upgraded into advanced scientific models in order to be applicable worldwide for pre-disaster mitigation and for resilient recovery following devastating events.

"The proposed models will be incorporated into a spatial decision support system with simulation capabilities, where alternative options for rebuilding post-disaster or for mitigating the seismic risk pre-event can be compared and evaluated by the decision makers.

"The research will help city planners make well-informed decisions to improve wastewater system resilience against similar disruption of civil service caused by future seismic disaster."

Dr Giovinazzi says positive lessons must be learned from the earthquake and Worner’s research attempts to address the gap that exists in the decision-making process in an important area such as local council infrastructure assets.


For further information please contact:
Kip Brook
Media Consultant
Student Services and Communications
University of Canterbury
Ph: (03) 364 3325
Mobile: 027 5030 168

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