The University of Wollongong is committed to working towards the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through its governance, teaching and learning, community engagement, partnerships and research. The following initiatives are by UOW staff and students working towards SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation.
Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
Onsite rainwater storage*
Reduction in water consumed since 2019**
Water bubbler or bottle refill stations
Teaching, learning and outreach
Students studying subjects about this goal
Media articles about this goal
Articles appeared in media outlets with a combined potential audience reach of 73M
Publications with international collaboration
of the international collaboration publications are with developing countries
citations per publication (global average 3.5)
Publications in the top 10% of journals (11.1% in the top 1%)
2022 figures used unless otherwise specified. *Wollongong campus only. **Includes all UOW, UOW Pulse and UOW Global Enterprises, including Wollongong campus, Innovation Campus, student accommodation, Shoalhaven campus, Bega campus and Graduate Medicine properties.
Bottled water creates large amounts of waste, with plastic bottles among the ten most common rubbish items picked up on Cleanup Australia Day. Australia recycles only 36% of PET plastic drink bottles. Around 373 million plastic water bottles end up as waste each year. At UOW campuses, water drinking fountains and/or bottle refill locations are available to all, across buildings and at numerous outdoor locations.
Landscape plantings at UOW are local endemic native plants adapted to climate conditions of the area. Irrigated areas are restricted to sporting facilities and ceremonial lawns. The Biodiversity Action Plan establishes a target of increased native species planted on the UOW campus with local provenance. Approximately 50,000 trees and shrubs have been planted on campus since 1975. Many local native plants were unable to be purchased in the campuses first years, instead the UOW Landscape team created their own plant nursery. They collected local native plant seeds and began propagating seedlings.
Water management plan
The Water Management Action Plan has been developed to reduce potable water use, maximise rainwater capture capacity and water reuse and recycling opportunities, comply with NSW water quality standard, and improve awareness and education the UOW campus community about water conservation and water pollution and water quality issues. UOW also implemented measures to track the total volume of water used in the university, a process in place to treat wastewater, minimise water usage and maximise water reuse including sustainable rainwater extraction and storage on campus.
Water consumption awareness on campus
Water consumption reduction and reuse initiatives are a focus in UOW water management strategies. Australia suffers from long drought periods that have negative environmental, social and economic impacts. UOW operations include a range of activities that impact on the amount of water consumed including sports field maintenance, provision of food services, research and general campus use. A water education and awareness program is a key strategy in UOW’s Water Management Action Plan as the University is subject to dry periods that require awareness of efficient practices. UOW aims to achieve these aspirations by implementing a priority hierarchy that focuses on undertaking structural and behavioural changes to reduce demand for and manage the supply of energy, water and materials, to use renewable resources and recycle and then offset what cannot be reduced or eliminated.
While human consumption of microplastics has not been thoroughly explored, it is known that many types of microplastics bind and accumulate highly toxic pollutants. This Microplastics Pollution in Waterways research project seeks to assess the potential for bacteria or fungi to degrade these plastics, to find suitable candidate strains that may be used to reduce microplastic contamination. Further, UOW has organised a series of environmental events for students across the university to collect samples and assess the extent of microplastic pollution to raise awareness of the microplastic pollution on Australian beaches.
SMART Infrastructure Facility
The SMART Infrastructure Facility contributes to infrastructure planning in Australia through truly independent research coupled with deep academic rigour to ensure policy-makers and industry receives high quality and timely advice on major projects.
The SMART Water and Energy research group is dedicated to creating innovative and sustainable solutions to protect our environment from contamination, develop waste to energy pathways and secure affordable and reliable zero-carbon electricity supply.
SMART Infrastructure Facility also ran the Smarter Schools for a Smarter Planet project as a part of the Digital Living Lab project, aimed at enabling regional high school students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics to gain skills in the construction and use of smart technologies to monitor water issues relevant to their school environment.
Sustainable Buildings Research Centre
The Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) is a multidisciplinary facility addressing the challenges of making built environments restorative. As a net zero water building, SBRC captures its rainwater in a 65000 litre tank for washing and flushing, and treats all of its sewage through filtration and reed beds.
Wastewater treatment, stormwater management and pollution prevention actions are undertaken on our campuses to minimise impacts to water quality and prevent polluted water from entering the water system as a result of our operations. These initiatives are outlined in our Water Management Action Plan and examples are provided in the Environmental Sustainability Progress Report.
Any accidents or incidents involving chemical spills that could cause water pollution are handled by the Chemical Spill Management Guidelines.
Conscious water usage
UOW actively provides educational opportunities for local communities to learn about good water management, and promotes conscious water usage on campus and in the wider community. Examples include seminars, information on reducing water use at campus and at home and a list of links for water efficiency and reuse information on campus and for the wider community.
Off-campus water conservation
UOW supports water conservation and cooperates in water security locally, nationally and globally to advance SDG 6. These include the Illawarra Flame House used to engage the local community, partnering with The Australian Water Partnership to engage with other organisations nationally, and conduct research globally with India experts to investigate coastal reservoirs as a sustainable strategy for water security through the Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC).