Day One
Thursday, 29 November 2018
ES Myer Tiered Theatre (Room 26, Level 4) Mayne Medical Building




8.30 AM

Guests assemble and experience the audio-visual soundscape ““

Heidi Chan abstract x (all intervals)

8.45 AM


Chair, Wendy Hoy


Welcome Remarks 

Wendy Hoy


Welcome to Country

Aunty Kerry Charlton


Opening address

Bronwyn Fredericks



Setting the scene

Charles Gilks


Keynote address – Kupi – Drinking water and chronic disease in remote Australia, The Western Desert Kidney Health Project

Christine Jeffries-Stokes and Annette Stokes

9.45 AM

Morning tea





10.15 AM


Chair, Claire Brolan



Patricia Riley


PFAS and PROS on your doorstep in Australia

Diane Priddle








What is the drink of choice in remote communities?

Megan Ferguson





Kidney function in rural communities – filtering the facts

Karen Dwyer


Unsafe water, poor health and low life expectancy in remote communities

Jay Rajapakse


Chronic renal toxicants in drinking water, and public health provisions of the NHMRC Australian Drinking Water Guidelines

Ian Stewart

12.15 PM

LUNCH (12.15 – 1.15 PM)





1.15 PM


Chair, Richard Banati


The Deadly Heavy Metals Water Filter

Uriah Daisybell


High nitrate in remote community bore water supplies: hydrogeological and geochemical considerations.

Matthew Currell


To Treat or Not to Treat – That is the question!

Daniel Drew


‘Understanding context’ – an oft forgotten pre-requisite for the design of appropriate drinking water solutions

Annette Davison


Health cost of salinity contamination in drinking water: from Bangladesh

Debasish Kumar Das


Housing for Health and Safe Water: Revisiting history to land in the present

Paul Torzillo


Water and Wastewater services for remote communities in Western Australia

Anas Ghadouani


Positive re-design of drinking water delivery in the Torres Strait Islands

Chris Blake


Adapting International Development sector approaches to improving water service outcomes for remote Indigenous communities

Kumi Abeysuriya


Unsafe regulated potable water supplies – more common than you think: Part 1

Michael Lawrence


Unsafe regulated potable water supplies – more common than you think: Part 2

Katrin Doederer

3.15 PM

Afternoon tea


3.40 PM


Chairs, Jay Rajapakse, Brian Hudson


Identifying the critical ‘unknown unknowns’

Geoff Harris


Water and the bush

Felicity Wall


Safe and secure waterways

Sue Jackson


Leveraging Australia’s SDG commitments for greater accountability and action for safe water for Australia’s First Peoples living in discrete locations

Claire Brolan





Chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and water quality in the Northern Territory

Paul Lawton


Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Aetiology (CKDu) in Sri Lanka: Advancing a hypothesis-agnostic approach

Katrina Van De Ven


Use of environmental isotopes to understand water quality issues in Australia.

Karina Meredith


Environmental factors impacting drinking water quality in CKDu-affected regions in Sri Lanka: an isotopic tracer approach

Chandima Nikagolla

5.00 PM



Day Two

Friday, 30 November 2018
Collaborative Room (room 25, level 3), Mayne Medical Building




8.30 AM

Guests assemble


8.45 AM

NEXT STEPS: where to now for long-term action for safe water?

Brainstorm of effective next steps (including advocacy, funding of research and existing resources, and selection of priorities)

Chair, Nina Hall

10.30 AM

Morning Tea


10.45 am

Small group development of actions and next steps, including draft proposals

Chair, Nina Hall and designated facilitators*

12.50 PM

Closing Remarks

Wendy Hoy

1.00 PM



* Claire Brolan, Kumi Abeysuriya, Megan Ferguson, Raymond Maher


REFRESHMENTS: Morning and afternoon teas will be served in the Board Room (room 15, level 3). LUNCH, on Thursday, will be served in the outdoor BBQ Area at the western end of the Mayne Medical Building (entry for Level 2 and Main Reception).

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: the Safe Water Summit is supported by the UQ Global Change Institute Flagship Projects Program, the UQ Faculty of Medicine Collaborative Grant Workshop Scheme, a UQ SPH 2018 Building Research Capacity - seeding grant, and sponsorship from the Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation (ANSTO).

For enquiries please contact: Professor Wendy Hoy, Director, Centre for Chronic Disease and NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence for Chronic Kidney Disease, The University of Queensland, T: (+61) 07 334 64809; or Dr Nina Hall, School of Public Health, The University of Queensland, T: (+61) 07 334 64717 M: (+61) 0415 750 957 E:




Kupi – Drinking water and chronic disease in remote Australia, Western Desert Kidney Health Project 

Christine Jeffries1,2, Annette Stokes1,3.

1University of Western Australia Rural Clinical School; 2Western Desert Kidney Health Project; 3Wongutha Birni Aboriginal Corporation, WA

The Western Desert Kidney Health project (WDKHP) was a research project conducted in five towns and five remote Aboriginal communities in the Goldfields of Western Australia. The aims of the project were to determine the prevalence of type 2 diabetes (T2DM), kidney disease and their associated risk factors in Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal adults and children and to compare those rates with national rates

The WDKHP found higher than predicted rates of T2DM, hypertension, haematuria, aciduria and elevated ACR in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal adults and children. There was no difference between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children.

Drinking water quality in the study communities often does not meet national and international safety guidelines. We have been able to outline biologically plausible pathways that might explain how poor drinking water quality and contamination might contribute to chronic disease and poor health outcomes in remote areas.

Pandanas Park’s contaminated water

Patricia Riley. Pandanus Park Aboriginal Corporation (PPAC), West Kimberley, WA

I am a Nyikina Mangala traditional owner and the spokesperson of Pandanus Park Community. The 2015 WA Auditor General’s report found that our water is contaminated with nitrates in a major way. They say the level is alright for consumption for most but it is too high for babies under three months and pregnant women.  In 2017 the not-for-profit Yaru Foundation gave us a reverse osmosis unit and now the whole community (150 people) cart water from this one tap for drinking and cooking. We shower and wash and garden with our house tap water that the Shire treats with chlorine. This water smells like faeces and affects our eyes and skin. We are not healthy and the chlorine does not solve the problem. Nothing is happening. We feel fear and we don’t know how much damage is being done to us. We want feedback and we want to manage our own water.

PFAS and PROS on your doorstep in Australia

Diane Priddle. Berwick Stud, Oakey, QLD

It is a fundamental right for all humans to have access to clean water. Oakey sits on an Alluvial Basin with the water system contaminated by PFOS and PFAS chemicals leaking from the nearby Oakey Defence Base. We live within the 26 km zone. These chemicals are both bio-persistent in that they don’t break down in the environment for more than 50 years. Our cattle still drink from the contaminated zone with bores, creek and overland flow when raining. We are exposed to chemicals in this zone that have been linked to a range of health issues ranging from cancer to kidney disease. Yet our own government has downplayed these findings. We must act on the latest science the world has to offer. Local, state and federal government bodies must work together to share information and act fast, as if it was their properties suffering contamination.

Country not happy

May Diganbal Rosas. Dagoman Country

I am an elder of the Katherine community and senior custodian of Dagoman Country on my mother’s side. We live on this land, near the Tyndall Air Force Base. In 2017 we were told that levels of PFAS from fire-extinguisher foam are high in our soil and water and have been for many years. I have to tell my grandchildren that they can’t pick berries, and can’t eat barramundi and turtles and prawns from the Katherine River any more.  Our drinking water is now from rain water tanks and not the river. The damage is huge.

What is the drink of choice in remote communities?

Megan Ferguson1, Julie Brimblecombe2.

1The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD; 2Monash University, Melbourne, VIC

Nationally, plain water has been shown to contribute 48%, and sugared drinks and alcohol 28%, to the drinks consumed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders have raised concerns about the impact of water palatability and potability, and limited household resources on the drink choices of residents. In food stores, storeowners aim to address this by supplying large, affordable containers of water, 600 ml water for $1.00, pricing water and diet soft drinks lower than sugar softdrinks and promoting bottled water. Further discounting water by 20% increased sales by 17.6%. Councils have been supported to create supportive environments for health, including installation of water bubblers. Gaps remain in relation to the impact of water supply on drink consumption and the potential role in preventing diet-related disease.


Kidney function in rural communities – filtering the facts

Karen Dwyer1, Susan Brumby1,2.

1School of Medicine, Deakin University, Geelong; 2National Centre for Farmer Health, Hamilton, VIC

Chronic Kidney Disease of unknown aetiology (CKDu) is a prevalent condition (17.9–21.1%) in agricultural communities in India, Sri Lanka and Central America. Young (20-50 yo) male agricultural workers are predominantly affected. Putative antecedents include agrochemical exposure, contaminated water and dehydration in addition to a higher burden of traditional risk factors for CKD. Within Victoria the prevalence of CKD is greater in agricultural communities compared to the state as a whole – for example in the Grampians and Loddon-Mallee-Murray regions the prevalence of CKD is 13.5% compared to 9.8% for the state as a whole and 5.4% and 7% for Bayside and Eastern Melbourne. Our preliminary data shows that 67% of 511 eligible persons based in agricultural communities has 1 or more known risk factor for CKD, which is double the expected rate and likely under-reported. The proposed study aims to define the burden of CKD in agricultural communities and identify novel CKD risk factors.

Unsafe water, poor health and low life expectancy in remote communities

Jay Rajapakse1, Herath Manthrithilake2, Brian Hudson1.

1Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Brisbane, QLD; 2International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Sri Lanka

Drinking water supplied to remote communities comes from groundwater and/ or surface water sources.  Communities in remote areas often access unsafe water for drinking. The quality of this water varies, and poses different health risks based on the nature, quantity and combinations of contaminants.

Common waterborne diseases like typhoid, cholera and gastroenteritis are well known.  Chronic kidney disease of unknown causes (CKDu) is another global problem, causing suffering for patients, and posing heavy financial burdens on public health systems. Kidney function can fail for different reasons, known and unknown. There are many hypotheses about the causes of CKDu, and unsafe drinking water is prominent.  Human capacity to tolerate different water qualities also varies from place to place. Therefore, standards for drinking water quality should reflect local circumstances.

Provision of safe water to remote communities through appropriate water treatment solutions could improve health and life expectancy in remote communities.

Chronic renal toxicants in drinking water, and public health provisions of the NHMRC Australian Drinking Water Guidelines

Ian Stewart1,2, Wasa Wickramasinghe2.

1Food and Water Toxicology Consulting, Brisbane; 2Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD

Chemical agents that can adversely affect renal health may contaminate drinking water. Nephrotoxic metals and metalloids include cadmium, lead, inorganic arsenic and uranium. Sodium is an essential element but chronic excess intake, through its contributory effects on hypertension, is likely detrimental to renal function. Maximum permissible concentrations in drinking water for Cd, As, Pb and U have been determined by NHMRC; advisory considerations are presented for Na. Several disinfection by-products, notably the trihalomethanes, are renal toxins. Organohalogens are more likely to form in conditions of high organic load during drinking water disinfection.

While the aetiology of population-level chronic renal disease is presumably multifactorial, future epidemiological investigations should assess community-level variability in drinking water quality for consideration of water-borne nephrotoxins.


The Deadly Heavy Metals Filter

Uriah Daisybell, Allan Alipio. Christian Aboriginal Parent Directed School, Coolgardie, WA

The aim of this project was to determine whether a carbon coated mussel shell, charcoal and neodymium magnets can be used to cheaply remove heavy metal ions from mining-polluted drinking water.

To coat the mussel shells with sugar, sugar is heated into a liquid form. After the sugar solidifies, the coated shell is burned to create carbon-coated mussel shells.

The bottom of the filter is covered with fine linen cloth and contains the carbonated shells, at the middle are neodymium magnets, and on top of the filter are charcoals.

Testing of the filter found that the amount of heavy metals were reduced into a level that is not harmful to humans.

High nitrate in remote community bore water supplies: hydrogeological and geochemical considerations

Matthew Currell1, Daniel Drew2, Phil Krasonstein2, Annette Davison3, Sandor Guggidsberg1, Matthew Mullins1, Tom Pendlebury1.

1School of Engineering, RMIT University, Melbourne, VIC; 2Optimos Group;  3Risk Edge Pty Ltd

This paper presents findings of an honours project using simple field-based techniques to characterise drinking water supply quality at Mulga Queen and Mount Margaret, two communities in the Western Australian gold-fields with high levels of nitrate (>50mg/L as NO3-) in bore water. High nitrate concentrations occur in ground water throughout Australia’s arid and semi-arid regions, including many remote communities dependent on bore water for drinking supply. This may pose health risks, particularly where nitrate co-exists with elevated concentrations of heavy metals such as uranium. Previous studies have attributed elevated nitrate to high rates of biological N-fixation in the soil. However, to date there have been few studies examining the governing factors controlling nitrate levels within specific aquifer systems, or their relationship to other hydrogeological and geochemical conditions. In this work, mining and other public databases provided valuable information to better characterise hydrogeological and geochemical influences on groundwater quality.

To Treat or Not to Treat – That is the question!

Daniel Drew1, Phil Krasnostein1, Annette Davison2.

1Optimos Group; 2Risk Edge Pty Ltd

Water analysis data from remote communities in Western Australia and elsewhere reveal that groundwater sources may contain a range of dissolved species some of which are classified as unwanted contaminants.

In the case of the communities at Mulga Queen and Mt. Margaret in central Western Australia, the contaminant of most concern is nitrate (NO3-) because concentrations are close to or exceed the 50mg/L lower limit in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) where infants and pregnant women may be affected.  Recent health studies in the region have raised questions about health issues from long-term, chronic exposure to much lower concentrations of nitrate.

To address the problem of high nitrate concentration in drinking water, a hierarchy of options exists ranging from non-treatment alternatives to the application of treatment technologies. 

Various options are presented, revealing that a contextual approach is required to establish the best “Fit for Purpose” option with long-term sustainability.

‘Understanding context’: an oft forgotten pre-requisite for design of drinking water solutions

Annette Davison. Risk Edge Pty Ltd

The World Health Organization and the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines call for a catchment to consumer approach to drinking water management. This approach includes understanding the governance framework in which the water supplier operates – the stakeholders, the legal and formal requirements, the product being produced and the controls and monitoring to consistently provide ‘fit for purpose’ water. Water suppliers need to fully understand their operating context to holistically understand and manage risks. For each system to be supplied with drinking water, it is important to first undertake an operating context assessment to identify key stakeholders, key hazards that must be controlled, water quality guidelines that must be met and design treatment and monitoring technologies that are contextually and culturally appropriate for the community in which they will be implemented. In this presentation, I will discuss the need to ‘understand context’ as a pre-requisite to the ‘appropriateness’ of drinking water solutions.

Health cost of salinity contamination in drinking water: Evidence from Bangladesh

Debasish Kumar Das1,2, Sariful Islam2, Sheikh Hadiujjaman2, Champa Bati Dutta2, Manjur Morshed3.

1School of Economics, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD; 2Department of Economics, Khulna University, Bangladesh; 3Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Khulna University of Engineering and Technology, Bangladesh

This study estimates health cost of salinity contamination in drinking water in the severely salinity-affected three south-western districts of Bangladesh. We collect information on self-reported health status, household characteristics and laboratory tested salinity concentration in drinking water from randomly selected 266 households. Findings show that an increase in concentration of 100mg sodium chloride per liter in the drinking water raises annual health cost BDT262 per household, which equals BDT2270 (USD28.38) for average salinity exposure per household. Limiting salt concentration at the safety standard could save approximately BDT1617 (USD20) per household or BDT170 (USD2.12) million in aggregate annually, which accounts for almost 1 percent of their disposable income. Cost-benefit analysis shows that net present value of benefits from a 10-year project supplying safe drinking water to the entire population is around USD7.33 million and thus indicates financial viability of alternative supply system (pond sand filtering) to the concerned authorities.

Housing for Health and Safe Water: Revisiting history to land in the present

Tess Lea, Paul Torzillo. Housing for Health Incubator, University of Sydney, NSW

In the 1980s, Healthabitat made a point of measuring water use and water contamination issues in the desert regions of Australia. This was to meet a widespread myth that, since Aboriginal people wasted or otherwise did not know how to use water, the functionality of water amenities was irrelevant. In this paper, Housing for Health Incubator collaborators Professor Paul Torzillo and Associate Professor Tess Lea provide an overview of this historical work. We bring it into the contemporary period, where water security, palatability and potability loom large as issues for health and viability, both as a legacy of over-extraction and portent of climate change pressures.

Water and Wastewater services for remote communities in Western Australia.

Anas Ghadouani. The University of Western Australia, WA

This presentation will provide a brief overview on the key, current and historical, challenges facing the provision of adequate services for water and wastewater in remote communities of Western Australia. A report on recent development in the state of Western Australia will be provided, especially in the context of a number of new initiatives and collaborative discussions between the university and the various key agencies as well as the private sector. This water summit will provide great opportunities to initiate collaboration and share ideas on how to develop adequate and integrated solutions for the key challenges.

Positive re-design of drinking water delivery in the Torres Strait Islands

Chris Blake1, Brad Milligan1, Toni Veronese2, Greg Jackson3, Heidi Grodecki3, Nina Hall4.

1Tropical Public Health Services, Queensland Health, Cairns; 2Torres Strait Island Regional Council, Torres Strait;

3Queensland Health Water Unit, Brisbane; 4The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld

The Queensland Government piloted an initiative to install water treatment technology that was ‘fit-for-purpose and fit-for-place’ in remote Indigenous communities on two Torres Strait Islands (Hammond and Warraber Islands). It was identified that an effective model of safe drinking water delivery for remote Indigenous communities should include five ‘prerequisites for success’ to ensure equitable access to safe drinking water, these include cross-agency collaboration, tailored design for each community, cultural competency by government agencies engaging in Indigenous communities, appropriate water treatment training and technology, and ongoing mentoring and support for remotely-located water operators. The program, commencing in 2016 and implemented in 10 communities, has demonstrated ongoing sustainable results and efficient use of investment, by better management of drinking water supply systems and is evidenced by zero boil water alerts (attributed to E. coli). This initiative has adaptive potential for other remote communities and other basic service delivery, including wastewater treatment and solid waste management.

Adapting International Development sector approaches to improving water service outcomes for remote Indigenous communities

Kumi Abeysuriya1,2 (Hon), Nina Hall2.

1Institute for Sustainable Futures, Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Brisbane; 2School of Public Health, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 

Water service provision is generally viewed as the domain of technical experts with relevant scientific knowledge not usually available in remote communities. While Indigenous Shire Councils in Queensland are responsible for water services for larger discrete remote communities, decisions rely on recommendations from external consultants that may not be such a good option for the context of that community. Numerous studies stress the need for greater empowerment and capacity for competent decision-making by remote communities. One path to building such attributes may be through adapting community-led participatory approaches to community water safety planning designed for the international development sector. Through such approaches, stakeholders in Indigenous communities may be meaningfully involved in co-designing services consistent with their values and needs in collaboration with relevant experts, making incremental improvements to the approaches to better achieve the full range of outcomes they desire.

Unsafe regulated potable water supplies – more common than you think: Part 1

Michael Lawrence. Bligh Tanner, Brisbane; Advanced Water Management Centre, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD

In August 2016, a Campylobacter outbreak in New Zealand’s Havelock North drinking water supply caused ~5000 cases of illness and four deaths. The consequent inquiry analysed compliance of New Zealand water providers with regulatory standards; 20% of the population were supplied water was not demonstrably safe.

In Queensland, a “Comparative report” compared our drinking water providers for 2015-2016. The report indicates that “rainfall events increase the difficulty in treating many water supplies” and “the subsequent treatment of the drinking water during these events is unable to adequately treat the drinking water supply to a suitable standard”.

Translated: our Government is aware of numerous Councils operating unsafe drinking water supplies.

Under these circumstances, I contend that a drinking-water related disease outbreak is inevitable.

I will provide evidence of some of these supplies, including where “upgrades” to the system purportedly to alleviate the issues will not address the identified public health risks.

Unsafe regulated potable water supplies – more common than you think: Part 2

Katrin Doederer. Advanced Water Management Centre, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD

Recent salmonella outbreaks in rural Queensland could be followed in the media and clearly demonstrate the failure of providing safe water. In Queensland the performance of water utilities in the large regional centres is well understood. However, performance reporting for the small water providers is patchy and inconsistent. Reviewing water quality data available from Annual Shire Council Reports across Queensland from 2009-2017 revealed that a large proportion of E.coli incidences was related to a failure of the chlorination barrier. This can be caused by excessive organic loading due to rainfall events, breakdown of equipment, and lack of regular monitoring and skilled employees in regional areas. While pathogens are the major concern, rain event can also introduce additional chemical contaminants or their precursors. The evidence of the available data demonstrates a need for action to avoid a Havelock North in Queensland



Identifying the critical ‘unknown unknowns’

Geoffrey Harris. Laynhapuy Homelands Aboriginal Corporation, NE Arnhem Land, NT

Laynhapuy Homelands services 25 homelands, covering ~ 18,000 km2 in north-east Arnhem Land.  Some 22 homelands source water from aquifers, and 3 from billabongs/creeks shared with wild pigs, buffaloes and crocodiles. Anecdotally, excluding surface-water supplies, there are no issues relating to taste, quality or quantity of water supplied.  However, to date, there’s no monitoring or awareness of community or individual house usage within each homeland, changing groundwater depth due to climatic changes (wet/dry season, ‘dry’ wet seasons), recharge timeframes, bore extraction impacts. Of changing water quality, including impacts of changing land use activities in recharge areas, including introduction of mining, fracking, forestry and large scale vegetation clearing. The organisation’s ability to rapidly implement and sustain appropriate monitoring, sampling or treatment has been constrained by financial considerations, limited vehicle and human resources available to do sampling, lack of internal resources with knowledge in these areas and lack of awareness of recent developments and innovations.

Water and the bush

Felicity Wall, Josie Douglas. Central Land Council, Alice Springs, NT

The CLC is a statutory authority supporting Aboriginal people across more than 417,000 km2 of freehold Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory.  Of increasing importance is the impact of inadequate housing and available water in desert communities.  Issues of water quality and supply impacts on the health and wellbeing of people living in the bush.  It all comes back to the water. This presentation will bring a Central Australian perspective on water sources, impacts on infrastructure and traditional owner perspectives. By drawing on specific examples from Lake Nash (calgon water treatment), Yuelamu (water insecurity), Iwupataka (water infrastructure), Kintore (rain water tanks) and an overall commentary on the impacts of ‘hard’ water on infrastructure in Central Australia. 

Safe and secure waterways 

Sue Jackson. Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, Qld

Recently there has been a number of health advisories warning people not to fish or drink from rivers in the Northern Territory and Queensland. I will address the issue of access to safe water but with a focus on the food and water produced by healthy freshwater systems in towns and remote areas where Aboriginal people hunt and fish aquatic resources and rely on access to unpolluted water to maintain distinct ways of life. Results from surveys of Indigenous households in three tropical catchments will be presented: Daly River (NT), Fitzroy (WA) and Mitchell (Qld). I argue that water security research and concepts like ‘critical human needs’ should move beyond the normative frame of per capita/per household volumes of clean 'domesticated' water to accommodate other ways of living safely and securely on country.

Leveraging Australia’s SDG commitments for greater accountability and action for safe water for Australia’s First Peoples living in discrete locations

Claire Brolan. The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld

Safe, sustainable water supplies for Indigenous Australians living in discrete locations is more than a health issue: it is an intergenerational equity and justice imperative. However, rights aspects of safe water for Australia’s First Peoples becomes frequently sidelined when accountability and policy complexities come into play. Tension can emerge around Commonwealth-State/Territory-local government responsibilities, partisan politics, international and multinational interests, private industry and community responsibilities, land ownership and cultural rights/entitlements. The self-determination and voices of the diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities at the heart of safe water supply issues are often not heard, or tokenistically engaged. Governance processes that do exist often lack meaningful and effective participatory governance mechanisms. Therefore, this presentation will consider ways Australia’s commitments under the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agenda can be strategically leveraged to build respectful, inclusive multi-stakeholder policy and planning frameworks for safe water supplies to rural and remote Indigenous Australians moving forward.


Chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and water quality in the Northern Territory

Paul Lawton, Steve Guthridge, Alan Cass.

1Menzies School of Health Research, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT.

Given concerns about water quality and the burden of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and diabetes in the Northern Territory (NT), we are gathering readily available data to understand quickly the nature and scope of the problem systematically. This includes all de-identified blood and urine test data about kidney function from the NT, and all water quality testing data from the NT’s single water company, from 2002 to 2018. Data will be compiled and compared for 80 individual remote NT communities. We’ll see if there is any relationship between (i) exposure to various water characteristics over time (including but not limited to heavy metals, and total dissolved solids - a measure of water palatability) and either (ii) the burden or progression of measured CKD, or (iii) measures of control of blood sugar. Communities with demonstrable concerns will be the focus of in-depth consultation and further detailed research and public health responses.

Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Aetiology (CKDu) in Sri Lanka: an hypothesis-agnostic approach

Richard Banati1,2,3, Katrina Van De Ven1,3,4,5, Marina Sara1,3,4,5, Timothy Boyle1,3,4,5.

1Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation (ANSTO), Sydney; 2Faculty of Medicine and Heath, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW; 3on behalf the collaboration’s three Working Groups: ‘Medical/ Physiological’, ‘Public Health’ and ‘Environment’; 4in partnership with the Global Water Institute (GWI); 5in collaboration with the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre (MCIC)

ANSTO has adopted a ‘hypothesis-agnostic’ approach to investigation of the complex issue of CKDu in Sri Lanka. This approach is underpinned by…

  • Collaboration - ANSTO has convened researchers and practitioners from over 20 universities, government departments, and research agencies to form thematic groupings (medical/ physiological, environmental, and public health). To these, ANSTO offers free access to its large-scale research infrastructure and competency in isotope-based systems analytical measurements.
  • Defined program of work – ANSTO is leveraging its large-scale research infrastructure and competency in isotope-based systems analytical measurements to benefit the community of researchers investigating CKDu.
  • Use of novel methodologies – ANSTO, under a partnership with the GWI, recently conducted a three-day experiential innovation competition (Hackathon) aimed at mitigating dehydration, a potential contributing factor to CKDu in Sri Lanka. ANSTO is now working with the winning teams on product development to accelerate the proposed solutions for implementation in early 2019.

Application of environmental isotopes to understand water quality issues in Australia.

Karina Meredith. Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), Sydney, NSW

Environmental isotopes measured in water samples provide a convenient means of tracing pathways for water and contamination flow through the hydrological cycle. The concentrations and distribution of isotopes can be used to provide insight into processes influencing groundwater, surface water and seawater on various timescales. As such, these naturally occurring isotopes are proving to be valuable tools in water resource investigations within Australia. Specifically, this research will highlight the application of the isotopes of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen together with trace elements for investigating the water quality of systems that are impacted by natural conditions such as changes in climate, evaporation or the influence of bedrock type. They can also be used to understand anthropogenic activities such as impacts from agrochemicals or over abstraction of groundwater resources. This presentation shows that these techniques together with various traditional chemical methods form an essential part of water quality investigations.

Environmental factors impacting drinking water quality in CKDu-affected regions in Sri Lanka: an isotopic tracer approach

Chandima Nikagolla1, Karina Meredith2,3, Richard Banati2, Jay Rajapakse1.

1Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Brisbane, QLD; 2Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation (ANSTO), Sydney; 3Connected Waters Initiative Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW

The chemistry of drinking water in dry climatic agricultural regions of Sri Lanka has captured many researchers attention in relation to the occurrence of Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Cause (CKDu) in Sri Lanka. However, studies rarely focus on the multiple environmental factors that maybe interacting and contributing to water quality in these regions.

Sixty groundwater samples were collected from endemic CKDu areas during two field visits and analysed for water chemistry and environmental isotopes. The study found that the physiochemical properties and isotopic composition of the water is highly variable highlighting that it is difficult to rely on traditional methods of water quality assessment in CKDu affected regions. Targeted site investigations considering the rainfall and the groundwater hydrology, together with understanding the fate of agrochemicals and potential contamination pathways will be useful for understanding the impact of water quality in CKDu affected regions.


Bridging the Gap: Raising Awareness of Water Health through Eco-musicology and Interdisciplinary Collaborations

Heidi Chan. The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD

Water health is a concern, both locally and globally. To raise awareness, identify issues, transmit knowledge and seek solutions, effective communication between different stakeholders, including the public, is important. However, academic research, scientific findings, industrial knowledge and technical terminologies might be unfamiliar or unable to reach to the public. Eco-music and interdisciplinary collaborative projects can bridge the gap, and connect with a broader audience at the grassroots level. Research on music created with reference to the theoretical framework of eco-musicology has shown that eco messages can be disseminated to a wider demographic, promoting advocacy and remedial messages. Through the connection of sound/music, society/culture, and environment/nature, listeners are able to connect with their local ecologies and wider environment. Furthermore, with the application of techniques such as sonification in inter-disciplinary compositions, scientific data can be translated into aesthetic aural works, and enhance listeners’ awareness and understanding of scientific concepts through affective stimulus.


Connect with us