USC student wins water engineering award

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USC student wins water engineering award


Liam Owen

6 November 2012

6 November 2012

A University of the Sunshine Coast Civil Engineering student whose research findings aim to improve long-term stormwater management on the Sunshine Coast has received a prestigious state industry award.

USC Honours student Liam Owen, who is majoring in Environment and Water, won the Michael Woodhouse Memorial Award for his final-year research project.

It is the most prestigious student award offered by Engineers Australia in Queensland for water engineering.

Mr Owen won the $500 bursary after his presentation beat the competition of university students from across the state at the Engineers Australia event in Brisbane showcasing “Queensland’s most promising future water engineers”.

“It’s a fantastic honour,” said Mr Owen after the 17 October event where he outlined his investigation into the long-term viability of new stormwater management techniques on the Sunshine Coast.

“It’s the first time USC has been represented at the event so I wasn’t expecting to win, taking on other big universities. My project has been a massive team effort and I couldn’t have achieved this award without the generous support of staff and fellow students at USC and my Council colleagues.”

The 41-year-old Golden Beach resident is completing his degree while working at Sunshine Coast Council as a technical support officer in water management and drainage services.

Mr Owen’s project examined the increasing use of roadside bioretention cells and other water sensitive urban design (WSUD) systems in the region.

“My key question was: Is there a significant difference in the pollutant removal performance of roadside cells compared with other stormwater conveyance methods, such as conventional pipes and grass swales?” he said.

“Developers on the Sunshine Coast are increasingly adopting a WSUD approach to stormwater management to meet water quality objectives stipulated by the Sunshine Coast Council.

“However, being a relatively new technology, there is a lack of understanding on the long-term effectiveness of bioretention systems in removing total suspended solids, total phosphorus and total nitrogen from stormwater, as well as the whole-of-life maintenance and renewal costs.

“My research aimed to assist council stormwater managers in determining whether bioretention cells are environmentally and economically sustainable.”

Mr Owen’s fieldwork involved taking samples at sites during natural rain events earlier this year, as well as using a specially constructed water tank to artificially test concentrations of pollutants.

“This proved successful in facilitating one of my project’s objectives to develop a procedure for the council to evaluate the long-term effectiveness of bioretention cells and other WSUD systems,” he said.

USC Professor of Engineering Mark Porter praised Mr Owen for his polished presentation to Engineers Australia and thanked the Sunshine Coast Council for sponsoring the project.

Mr Owen, a former journalist of more than 20 years, said he was enjoying his University degree and career change.

To assist his studies he has received USC scholarships including the $5,000 Graham Tamblyn Scholarship in Engineering in 2010 and the $1,000 LEW Mosel Prize in 2011.

— Julie Schomberg

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