Congratulations to UNSW Civil & Environmental Engineering researchers at UNSW Water Research Laboratory (WRL) and their colleagues at WaterNSW who were awarded a Research & Development Excellence Award at the annual 2024 Australian Water Association NSW Water Awards this month for their joint project: Upland Peat Swamps of the Woronora Plateau – Hydrological Monitoring and Water Balance Modelling.

For over a decade WRL researchers have been working to understand the impacts of long wall mining on upland peat swamps. The award recognises their collaborative three-year project led by WaterNSW to examine the hydrology of peat swamps before and after undermining.

There are over 1000 upland peat swamps on the Woronora Plateau south of Sydney. The swamps act like giant sponges to purify and store water, and slowly release it to become part of Sydney’s drinking water supply.

WaterNSW Water Quality Scientist Dr Alec Davie and Hydrogeologist Dr Maria Dubikova worked with UNSW PhD candidate Joe Cairns and WRL Principal Engineer Alice Harrison to develop a daily water balance model to determine how water moves through an upland swamp, before and after underground coal mining. The results of which has shown how much water can be stored in a swamp, and also how much water is lost after mining impacts.

Professor Will Glamore, leader of the Ecosystems Engineering team at WRL said, “It is an important topic in a challenging space and it’s great to be recognized. A big thank you to WaterNSW for leading the project, especially Alec DavieMaria Dubikova and Strategic Research and Innovation Manager Lisa Hamilton.”

“Also massive thanks to our (previous and existing) UNSW Water Research Laboratory team including Joe CairnsAlice Harrison, A/Prof Fiona JohnsonMargot MasonDuncan Rayner, and Jamie Ruprecht,  This is certainly some of the hardest field work you’ll ever have to do!!”

Award winning engineer Alice Harrison said “These are amazing environments that are hotspots for biodiversity. This work has involved a cast of thousands but it’s been worth all the days out in the swamps!“

For more information on the project please see this page

Alice Harrison UNSW WRL in the field 2023 - upland peat swamps hydrological monitoring project
Image: AWA NSW R&D 2024 Award Winners: Alec Davie, Maria Dubikova, Lisa Hamilton, Alice Harrison