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Associate Professor John Pisaniello

Unique capability finds global water storage solutions

Safe, sustainable and equitable water storage and delivery is a global imperative as population growth, urban development and the demand for alternative energy sources place increasing pressure on existing resources.

A unique capability emerging at UniSA is finding clever solutions, creating new tools and developing modern legal, regulatory and financial frameworks through cutting-edge projects and a multi-disciplinary approach. It is led by Associate Research Professor John Pisaniello, a lawyer and civil engineer, and Dr Joanne Tingey-Holyoak, an accountant and researcher with experience in the sustainable management of agricultural water.

Their combined expertise allows them to assess everything from dam safety to its impact on surrounding communities and the environment and to make recommendations on how to improve infrastructure, policies and approaches as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.

“Let’s say you have a dam built 20 years ago that was a long way from anywhere and the hazard risk was minimal,” A/Prof Pisaniello said. “But now people are moving into the area and that changes the situation. Not only does the dam need to meet higher standards, but you have to understand how the process of damming the water will impact on local communities and further downstream.”

This is increasingly important as developing nations turn to hydro-power to meet their energy needs and there is pressure to build more dams more quickly.

The World Bank has commissioned A/Prof Pisaniello and Dr Tingey-Holyoak to undertake a comparative study of the legal and institutional frameworks of dam safety management in 51 countries to help it address the competing issues of energy, water and food security and understand the requirements of new and ageing infrastructure. They also will work in individual regions, helping them develop the capacity to manage all aspects of their water systems.

Closer to home, the researchers are working with regional authorities and farmers to help improve water productivity and profit margins through better understanding of water-related costs and the overlap between physical, social and environmental parameters. A key project is the development of an integrated water productivity accounting tool that will allow individuals to analyse all relevant inputs.

“If you have the tools to understand exactly what is going on, you can meet safety standards, be sustainable, work with others to ensure equity of use and increase profit,” Dr Tingey-Holyoak said.