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Water management for a sustainable future

December 1, 2022 - 4 min read

Sometimes it isn’t what you study but where you study that can have a huge impact on your future.

Sarbjeet (Sunny) grew up in Chandigarh, the capital city of the northern Indian state of Punjab. When thinking about moving internationally for university, ‘I wanted a quiet and beautiful place – just like Geelong.’ And being in Geelong has had a huge influence on Sunny’s education and future.

As an aspiring engineer, Sunny said ‘the main reason for me choosing Deakin was its project-oriented design-based learning approach (PODBL).’ With PODBL, students work in teams to develop original solutions to real-world problems. ‘I’ve always enjoy having hands-on practice and the Deakin PODBL approach appealed to me the most.’

Studying at Deakin in Geelong has led Sunny on an unplanned and unexpected career path. As part of the hands-on learning approach, Sunny secured an internship on the stormwater management team with the City of Greater Geelong. However, ‘water management or stormwater infrastructure management was never in my plans,’ he replies when asked about his work there.

Sunny’s internship has turned into a part-time job while he completes his Bachelor of Civil Engineering (Honours) degree.

In this internship, Sunny learned about the important role engineers play in managing floods in urban environments. ‘Cities are becoming denser, making it harder for water to infiltrate into the ground,’ he points out. ‘The excess stormwater, which contains lots of pollutants and harmful chemicals, flows towards our rivers and creeks and depletes their health. With recent attention towards climate change and flooding, the government is working very hard towards flood control and mitigation.’

Sunny’s internship has turned into a part-time job while he completes his Bachelor of Civil Engineering (Honours) degree. ‘I am involved in the development of policies, frameworks and guidelines to improve the city’s infrastructure related to stormwater. I also work closely with government and private stakeholders to determine flood risk and develop flood mitigation techniques in the Geelong area.’

As part of his job, Sunny recently attended a site visit to Deakin’s Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus, where he studies. The campus is undergoing extensive integrated water management projects as part of the University’s commitment to sustainability. Managing and protecting water, one of the planet’s scarcest resources, is integral to Deakin’s sustainability approach and vision to create a climate ready campus.

Deakin Waurn Ponds Campus

Swamphen at Waurn Ponds

Campus aerial and swamphen photos courtesy of Jarrod Boord/Streamline Media.

One of these projects is converting the network of campus ponds to wetlands, an initiative that will deliver better water quality and biodiversity. One by one the six ponds are being drained, sediment build up removed, banks reshaped and new plants put in the ground. Once the project is complete, the wetland system hopes to attract more water birds, frogs, native fish and other aquatic animals. It will also provide additional stormwater capacity, helping to reduce the campus’ risk of flooding, and ensure cleaner water flowing into Waurn Ponds Creek. With the unique Australian environment being attractive to students, Sunny is glad that ‘not only the health of our waterways will be improved but the biodiversity across our campus for native wildlife will be enhanced.’ There will also be significantly less erosion and sediment build up.

Sunny is also very interested in how people use, or misuse, clean water. ‘With climate change and unpredictability associated with the availability of water, it becomes very important for us to be careful with how we use our water,’ he says. That is why he is happy to see that Deakin is currently working in partnership with the local water authority on a pipeline project to bring recycled water to campus, to be used for irrigation. ‘It is not right to use potable water for everything.’

To help make a better future for Sunny and other students like him, Deakin has a set of Sustainability Commitments, including a target to be carbon neutral by the year 2025. ‘I think Deakin’s commitment is very important for everyone,’ Sunny tells us. ‘This is a very important step towards creating a climate resilient future.’

Update: In early 2023, even before graduating from his Bachelor of Civil Engineering (Honours), Sunny secured a full-time position as a Stormwater Planning Engineer for City of Greater Geelong.


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Find out more about Deakin’s Integrated Water Management project

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