From the magazine

No-Dig: protecting Australia’s water

The problems facing the water sector

“Dealing with climate variability and climate change is probably the single biggest issue confronting the water sector,” Mr Mollenkopf said. Australia’s increasing urbanisation and rapid population growth is presenting challenges for the sector and water security remains a high priority.

“We’re also going through some very interesting phases with desalination and recycling technology, so getting acceptance of these new technologies and the need for them – when they are more expensive – is quite a task for the water sector,” he said. “We no longer have access to unlimited supply so we’re now being forced to look at more expensive options for water security.”

The value of trenchless

Mr Mollenkopf, who has been the association’s chief executive for the past four years, said the use of Trenchless Technology would only continue to grow in the maintenance of water supply infrastructure.

“The value of Trenchless Technology has been pretty thoroughly recognised throughout the water sector,” Mr Mollenkopf said. “Trenchless Technology has given us a way of doing those things that are so fundamental to us without that massive inconvenience and increasingly at less cost.”

Before taking his role at the Australian Water Association, Mr Mollenkopf was based in London as the International Water Association Deputy Executive Director. Here, he saw the increasingly important role Trenchless Technology is playing in asset rehabilitation.

In the United Kingdom, Mr Mollenkopf said, nobody digs up streets in urban areas. Costs, safety exposure, public inconvenience and reputation issues involved with excavation are making it more likely to become a last resort.

Rising costs associated with surface disruptions has presented Trenchless Technology as a cost-effective alternative. These costs include occupational health and safety considerations, signage, road closures and traffic management.

Going places we haven’t been before

The convenience of Trenchless Technology is an advantageous factor when excavation work for sewage projects involves massive disruptions. Mr Mollenkopf said one of the opportunities for Trenchless Technology is in the installation of deep gravity sewers.

“To install a deep gravity sewer, particularly if you’re putting it into an existing area, is massively inconvenient,” he said. Thanks to technological advancements, it is now possible to install sewage systems in areas that were previously unviable.

“There’s actually still tens of thousands, in fact, hundreds of thousands of properties around Australia that aren’t connected to sewers.” Mr Mollenkopf said. “Now with technology, plus trenchless techniques, we can actually do that in a cost-effective way.”

Whether it is digging up the backyard or road, Trenchless Technology is expected to remain prominent in many water projects. Mr Mollenkopf said this includes the possible use of trenchless in recycling schemes.

“So in the water sector in particular, you’ll see some very interesting things happening,” Mr Mollenkopf said.

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