Engineering students create tool to improve River Murray health

Civil engineering students Nikolas Harpas, Akhil Sharma, Isaac Devlin and Liam Gill have engineered a model to help figure out how we can maximise the water quality of the Murray River while minimising our impact on the river ecosystem.

image of four men in shirts standing outside

The water quality of the River Murray is vital to South Australians, given it’s the source of much of our water. But what about the health of the river, its ecosystem, plant life and animal life?

Infrastructure like locks and weirs exist along the river helping to control flows, and manage water health. But this doesn’t factor in the health of the ecosystem.

And so for their engineering honours project, the team turned their focus on how to use our existing infrastructure in a way that is better for the river environment, to minimise the man-made impact on our river.

The team said that their model can be used to predict changes in river metabolism by altering river flow, and by analysing the model output, one can make recommendations to implement man-made changes in flow that will improve the health of the river ecosystem.

“Our model can be directly used by industry and governmental authorities such as Department of Environment and Water as a tool to guide how existing infrastructure can be best used to manage and increase ecosystem productivity. By creating a conceptual framework, our model can be expanded and tailored to different river systems,” the team said.

What’s it been like working on a project like this and what have you learned from the experience?

This research project has been exciting yet challenging and working closely with the Department of Environment and Water has been an invaluable experience. With research you don’t really know what you will get at the end of it as it hasn’t been done before- you are the innovators and teachers to a wider community,” they said.

“What we have learned is that Engineering is multi-faceted - while you can develop a model, it’s really how you use that tool to inform decisions and particularly how one can convey the outcomes to a broader audience, such that it is understandable by all stakeholders”.

What are we excited about?

“With all the doom and gloom about how the environment is suffering - it’s good to know that research is being done such as ours in an effort to preserve our rich environment for future and current generations: to preserve intra and inter-generational equity,” the team said.

Where can you see more?

The team will be showcasing their project at Ingenuity – an interactive showcase of university student projects exploring real-life applications of architecture, engineering, computer and mathematical sciences. Come and say hello at the Adelaide Convention Centre on 26 October under the Our Built and Natural Environments theme. Registrations essential!

Tagged in ingenuity, Civil Environmental and Mining Engineering, Student profile, student experience