Our Innovation Program is delivering operational efficiencies, improved safety practices, enhanced customer and environmental outcomes and improvements to our workplace culture.

Through our Research and Development Program, we identify areas for future investment, conduct pilot and trials and work with industry and research partners to explore new and innovative ways to operate to benefit customers and the wider community.

Closely aligned to our strategic direction, our Innovation Program is empowering our employees, enhancing customer service and helping us achieve our purpose and vision.

We are the first utility in Australia to use unique ‘superbugs’ to take the waste out of wastewater/

Wastewater is something we all generate by doing things like showering, washing up and flushing the loo, and it needs to be treated once it goes down the drain to protect our environment.

As part of our Innovation Program, we’re using amazing Anammox superbugs to treat wastewater at Brisbane’s largest wastewater treatment plant.

The bugs  feed on nutrients in wastewater, naturally removing them and saving large amounts of power and chemicals in the process.

They make the essential process of treating the region’s wastewater faster and more sustainable, which means we’re better able to cater to population growth and reduce the carbon footprint of wastewater treatment – a win/win!

To learn more about what makes these bugs ‘super’ check out the video above.

Researchers from all over the country use our replica sewer to trial and test new ideas to make wastewater treatment cleaner, greener and more efficient.

At 1.2km long, the live model sewer is the largest of-its-kind in the world and is an impressive sight.

It lives at our dedicated Innovation Precinct at Brisbane’s largest wastewater treatment plant.

While the sewer is used for a wide range of research, we’re particularly proud that it’s helping reduce dreaded ‘fatbergs’ and wet wipe blockages – which can damage both household pipes and the sewer network.

The replica sewer played a vital role in developing Australia’s first ‘flushability’ standard, leading to clearer labelling on wet wipes and other products so shoppers know exactly what can and can’t be safely flushed.

Algae might be tiny microscopic plants, but they play a big role in how wastewater is treated across rural and regional Australia.

Many people mightn’t realise that algae feed on nutrients found in poo and pee, removing them naturally.

They’re already used to treat wastewater in regional Australia, but the traditional process is slow.

That’s why we’ve found innovative ways to speed up the natural process, turning algae into speed eaters that can treat wastewater much faster and more efficiently.

The new and improved process is being used to treat wastewater in the Lockyer Valley at our new demonstration plant in Helidon.

It could be rolled out nation-wide and has the potential help support population growth in regional areas sustainably, without the need for large infrastructure upgrades.

Currently, wastewater utilities spend up to 25 per cent of their energy budget to remove nutrients from wastewater, mainly nitrogen and phosphorus.  In sewage, these nutrients come primarily from people’s urine, rather than faeces or greywater.

The UGold electro-concentration system, developed in partnership between Urban Utilities and the University of Queensland’s Advanced Water Management Centre, is the world’s first technology specifically designed to remove and recover these nutrients right at the source – the loo.

This innovation has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of wastewater treatment.  The nutrient recovery system also generates a concentrated liquid fertiliser and a solid product (ammonium bicarbonate) that has multiple reuse options.

We’ve installed a pilot plant at our Innovation Centre at Luggage Point to conduct tests on real urine. The process is self-powered by a battery-like system with the energy contained in the urine itself. This technology is entirely chemical free and only requires minimal electricity.

The trial will provide us with invaluable data around upscaling the technology for more sustainable wastewater treatment in the future.

What can be done with seaweed, and why is a water utility so keen on farming it?

As a part of our innovation program, and in partnership with the Sunshine Coast University, we’re currently exploring options to farm seaweed in Moreton Bay, to assist the balance of nutrients in our waterways. Nutrients are naturally abundant in the environment but are also a by-product of human activity. They can enter our waterways through sediment, effluent from sewage treatment plants, and agricultural and industrial run-off.

Seaweed naturally feeds off these nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus. It’s also the largest marine crop in the world, but is not yet grown commercially in Australia. However, we’ve found that the Queensland coastline is the perfect setting for a new seaweed industry, with ample light, warm water, and state-of-the-art aquaculture facilities, partnered with smart industries.

Seaweed production in Moreton Bay has the potential to become an alternative nutrient offset in our waterway. This innovation aims to conduct the first Australian trial of seaweed production in Moreton Bay. If successful, this could lead to utilising aquaculture as an offset for nutrient releases to waterways.

You can read more information on Nick’s (Sunshine Coast University) seaweed study here.

For more information, please contact our IR&D team on IR&D@urbanutilities.com.au