South Australian companies leading the way in sustainability are finding lucrative opportunities in China, with the strengthening of ties between the South Australian government and officials in the province of Shandong.
This week, 16 senior directors from the Shandong Environment Protection Department arrived in the state for a 10-day SA government training program to look at opportunities for industry partnerships, training and research in water and environmental management.
Agencies involved in in the program include the Department of State Development, Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Environment Protection Agency, City of Onkaparinga, Green Industries SA, SA Water and the International Center for Water Resources Management.
The Water Industry Alliance, a cluster of 150 public and private SA entities water-related organisations, is also involved.
Water Industry Alliance chief executive Rachel Barratt said since early 2015 the state government, local government sector and water industry have been progressing new investment and export opportunities in China.
“This investment is starting to lead to significant opportunities for many South Australian companies,” Ms Barratt said.
South Australia’s Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources acting chief executive John Schutz said that Chinese interest in South Australia’s water and environmental expertise stems from that country’s Five Year Plan released last year that places environmental sustainability as a key foundation of China’s future economic growth.
“There is a real demand for our state’s capabilities, especially in Shandong, and visits such as this lay a foundation for future export and investment,” Mr Schutz said.
“South Australia’s water and environmental capabilities have evolved over many decades. Our water industry knowledge is world leading which is in part due to us being the driest state on the driest inhabited continent on earth. “
Mr Schutz said the state is a “world class hub” in stormwater harvesting, managed aquifer recharge, small scale waste water treatment and re-use as well as environmental protection and waste recycling.
“Our water and environmental expertise, training and research and associated legislation and policy are considered internationally to be world leading and this provides an important leverage point to further grow this sector of the economy.”
A spokeswoman for DEWNR said that the majority of companies already gaining traction in the Chinese marketplace are finding a niche exporting expertise and technology.
They include Hydro-dis, which developed an energy-efficient, portable water disinfection technology that reduces the need for dosing water with toxic chemicals. Organics recycler Peats Soils has also found a ready market, as has water management innovator Micromet.
In 2016 Micromet signed a joint venture agreement with a Chinese firm, Dadongwu, to manufacture equipment for treating wastewater specifically for the Chinese market.
Its electrolysis technology removes pollutants from contaminated water, and can be built into shipping containers for easy deployment. It can also be retrofitted to existing water treatment plants.
A $2 million facility on the way
The joint venture agreement saw a $2 million investment to establish a manufacturing facility in Adelaide that is expected to employ 75 people initially.
Ad there is a Sponge City consortium on the way
Another success story is the Australia China Sponge City Consortium, which opened an office in Shandong’s capital, Jinan in May this year.
The Chinese government has committed up to $128 million per city to 16 cities to pilot the “sponge city” concept, which aims to better manage stormwater and reduce flooding during wet seasons, and ensure reliable supplies during dry seasons.
SA companies engaged in the Jinan pilot include Syntec Global, Alano Water, Water Data Services, Aqueon, Hassell and Australian Water Environments.
In addition to implementing technological solutions for water treatment and re-use, the goal is to improve the overall urban environment.
This may include elements such as wetlands, green space and cycle trails, as well as using landscape as a means of managing, storing and treating stormwater.
Improved aquifer recharge is also a priority.
“Our role will be threefold: to address flooding and water quality, improve the liveability of Jinan through good design and re-instate the springs and their associated spiritual and cultural value,” Consortium spokesman Geoff Fisher, from Australian Water Environments told Lead South Australia.
“The city has a world-renowned spring system which is being depleted by rapid urbanisation.
“We’ll be taking our knowledge and years of experience to Jinan but we’ll also be learning from them – for example, they have problems with acid rain which Adelaide doesn’t have, but dealing with that problem will extend our knowledge”.