Understanding Australia by Analysing Wastewater During the Census 2021

ARC Linkage Project

This project aims to utilise the Australian Census 2021, which provides a unique opportunity to link exposure to chemical and biological hazards with catchment socio-demographic data via systematic wastewater analysis. The project is expected to advance our capabilities in sampling and analysis to identify emerging hazards. Furthermore, it aims to deepen the understanding of factors that affect spatiotemporal trends in hazards across Australia including both demographic and socioeconomic, and how the hazards respond to intervention strategies such as chemical regulation, chemical substitution, and public education. Moreover, in a world first, the project aims to assess chemical fate on a national level by linking sales and use with fate and release from wastewater treatment plants and assess treatment efficiency at more than 100 plants around Australia. The project expects to provide insight for government, wastewater managers, and industry into hazards that may affect environmental and human health.


Both industry partners and the government will benefit from the new knowledge and capabilities, that will be developed through SewAus Census 2021. The knowledge that will be generated with this project, such as insight into chemical and biological hazards, is invaluable to manage their collective responsibilities to safeguard human and environmental health, optimise wastewater treatment processes, regulate chemicals, and prevent crime.

Future outcomes of this project that are of interest to the general population will include economic, environmental, and social benefits. There are numerous economic benefits of recognising new chemical and biological hazards, both in humans and in releases to the environment, and responding to them promptly. These include cost savings in environmental remediation, health care provision, and legal costs to establish culpability. Similarly, there are substantial environmental benefits including, avoiding adverse effects on ecosystem health (for example, loss of keystone species due to habitat contamination and loss) and other systems, such as our food chain. Finally, the societal benefits include increased knowledge of where and why chemical and biological exposures are occurring, which enables effective allocation of resources to establish intervention strategies and other community support and health care services.

Research Outputs

Research outputs listed here.

Research Impact

This project has already attracted the engagement of different partners including Water Utilities and water research organisations, environmental management agencies, government authorities with a mandate to reduce harm related to drug abuse, and various health authorities.


Project members

Prof Jochen Mueller

Theme Leader, Emerging Environmental Health Risks

Dr Jake O’Brien

Senior Research Fellow

Dr Ben Tscharke

Senior Research Fellow

Dr Richard Bade

Senior Research Fellow

A/Prof Phong Thai

Co-Theme Leader, Environmental Health Risk Assessment

A/Prof Sarit Kaserzon

Co-Theme Leader, Environmental Health Risk Assessment

A/Prof Gilda Carvalho

Co-Theme Leader, Environmental Health Microbiology

Dr Rory Verhagen

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr Qiuda Zheng

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Jinglong Li

PhD Candidate

Zhe Wang

PhD Candidate