An alliance of businesses in the business of water

China signs up for South Australia’s water expertise

May 25, 2017

In a key breakthrough finalised during this month’s SA Government-led trade mission to China, the Australia China Sponge City Consortium has opened an office in Jinan to pursue multi-million dollar deals to improve Shandong’s water quality.

The six members of the consortium will lead pilot projects in 16 cities identified by the Jinan government as part of the “Sponge City” initiative, which has ambitious targets and a budget of around $128 million per city over the next few years.

Consortium members are Syntec Global, Alano Water, Water Data Services, Aqueon, Hassell, and Australian Water Environments.

And the WIA says the deal also opens the way for other members to get involved.

The Sponge City consortium members will collaborate on projects to direct aquifer recharge trials in 16 cities in Shandong Province.

WIA CEO Rachel Barratt says rapid urbanisation, poor water management and drainage are large issues in China.

“More than 230 cities were affected by flooding in 2013 and the country has embarked on the ‘sponge city’ initiative as a response to cities getting bigger and climate change threatening to bring more extreme weather”, she said.

Consortium spokesman Geoff Fisher, from Australian Water Environments, says the initial focus will be a project in Jinan itself.

“The city has a world-renowned spring system which is being depleted by rapid urbanisation”, Geoff said.

“Our role will be threefold: to address flooding and water quality, improve the liveability of Jinan through good design and re-instate the springs and their associated spiritual and cultural value.

“The consortium will be drawing on the experience of its members in Adelaide working with local government bodies in areas including Salisbury, Playford and Onkaparinga, where managed aquifer recharge for re-use has been very successful.

“We’ll be taking our knowledge and years of experience to Jinan but we’ll also be learning from them – for example, they have problems with acid rain which Adelaide doesn’t have, but dealing with that problem will extend our knowledge”.

The Sponge City Consortium will be working with the Shandong provincial government, and contractors, to help develop their capacity in water management and the design of water sensitive cities. Geoff says it’s definitely not a case of going in, developing a solution, and leaving.

“It is very important that the implementation and maintenance phases are given the same emphasis as the design,” he said. “We have a long-term commitment to the city and the program and to building the capacity of key staff in Jinan”.

Rachel Barratt emphasises that the opportunities extend beyond the six members of the consortium.

“The Sponge City Consortium is the spearhead, but the work they do will create other opportunities for other companies in SA’s water and design sector to also gain work and experience”, she said.

The Consortium was initiated in 2015, when the WIA and the Australian Institute of Architects travelled to Jinan for trade talks, resulting in a strategy to bring together SA’s skills in water management, engineering and design and to target Jinan as a pilot city.

Consortium member David Homburg of HASSELL and a Past SA President of the Australian Institute of Architects says that South Australia’s systems wide approach has been a key differentiator.

“South Australia has a proven track record in combining world class water solutions and great city design. Our reputation as a water sensitive and liveable city is resonating in China and throughout the Asian region.”

The consortium’s participation in this month’s South Australian Business delegation to China generated a number of significant milestones including: