Civil engineering student Lachlan Raso has received the Engineers Australia (EA) Michael Woodhouse Award for his project improving water analysis and treatment processes at two Seqwater dams on the Gold Coast.

The award acknowledges undergraduate achievement in the field of water engineering and was presented at the recent Queensland Water Symposium hosted by the Queensland Water Panel.

Through collaboration between Seqwater and industry partner Griffith University, Lachlan helped create a prediction model and user-friendly graphical interface for predicting levels of manganese in Hinze Dam and Little Nerang Dam.

The project’s aim was twofold: to optimise operational expenditure through reducing the analytical cost of monitoring manganese; and to improve the efficiency of manganese removal and treatment via the opportunity to react to predicted increases in concentrations.

“It was such a great opportunity to work with Seqwater on this project,” Lachlan said. “By applying information received from vertical profile system analysers that take water analysis parameters at different depths, I was able to correlate concentrations of manganese down to six metres and predict what the levels would be a week ahead.

“That information is important because it guides dam operators on the best locations from which to draw water to the Mudgeeraba Water Treatment Plant. This then can reduce the quantities of chlorine and potassium permanganate required for the treatment process.

“There are also other variables to consider. For instance, predicting manganese concentrations is easier in winter because conditions are generally more stable. However, summer brings other factors into play that can affect the reservoirs, including the influence of storms, severe heat and evaporation.”

At Hinze Dam alone, use of the prediction tool has already reduced Seqwater’s manual manganese monitoring program, with ongoing annual savings of around $40,000.

Seqwater CEO Mr Peter Dennis congratulated Lachlan, saying: “This project has delivered a predictive tool which provides water treatment plant operators with a number of days to respond operationally to increased manganese concentrations in source water.

“The ability to predict increases in manganese concentrations is especially important in scenarios where biofiltration is relied upon to remove manganese, as this capacity cannot be increased in a short timeframe.

“Given the significant savings and operational efficiencies achieved through this collaboration to date, Seqwater will expand the research to other sites with a greater range of parameters.”

Lachlan will graduate from the School of Engineering in December, yet as much as his award indicates an affinity for water projects, he is not limiting his options.

“I was always good at maths and physics at high school and that led me to studying engineering at Griffith,” he said. “The building industry appealed to me initially, but there are so many components to civil engineering and so many opportunities to pursue.”