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Lecture to tap into water systems

By Leanne Coleman

Professor Charlie Fairfield will deliver the first CDU professorial lecture for 2014 Professor Charlie Fairfield will deliver the first CDU professorial lecture for 2014

Territorians are invited to quench their thirst for knowledge and explore the hidden underground infrastructure that provides everyday access to a supply of safe drinking water during the first Charles Darwin University Professorial Lecture for 2014 on Tuesday, July 29.

Civil Engineer Professor Charlie Fairfield will challenge people to think twice when turning on a tap to the network of pipes and drains in place that allows for this seemingly simple action by consumers.

“Civilisations have risen on the back of mankind’s ability to supply safe drinking water and crucially, dispose of wastewater and sewage safely,” Professor Fairfield said. “The biggest future challenge facing the engineering profession may well be the provision of safe drinking water and the disposal of sewage for the 2.5 billion people for whom such improved sanitation is an undreamt of luxury.”

An engineer for more than 20 years, Professor Fairfield joined CDU in 2013 as the Power and Water Chair in Sustainable Engineering. His free public lecture will focus on his research in the United Kingdom into sewers, drains, ducts, and pipelines and is entitled “Drains, mains, and pipelines: a civil engineer’s journey through our hidden infrastructure”.

He said that optimisation of design for durability and innovative maintenance of these valuable underground assets was crucial for the future.

“I will explore strategies for the future of our essential utilities from a range of viewpoints: philosophical, political, economic, environmental, and technical.”

Professor Fairfield is a Chartered Engineer with 23 years in academe, since his graduation from the University of Edinburgh, developing a professional practice alongside his university duties. His reputation stems from his work in sustainability, soil-structure interaction, trench reinstatements, and plastic pipes.

His research at CDU encompasses the modelling of sewers, hydrology, the eco-engineering of wetland/river systems, and sediment transport around the Top End. He hopes to focus CDU’s research and development efforts on the management and engineering of that most precious resource: water. Firmly grounded in Australia's Northern Territory, yet looking north to Asia, he aims to collaborate with governments, international NGOs, businesses, and academics to seek solutions to both regional and global water-related problems.

Before arriving at CDU in June 2013, he was Professor of Civil Engineering at Edinburgh Napier University where he won research grants valued at more than $4 million.

The Professorial Lecture will be held on Tuesday, July 29 from 5pm to 7pm in the Nitmiluk Lounge, Level 4, Parliament House. The event is free, but seats are limited and RSVPs are essential. RSVP by July 24 to E: or T: 08 8946 6554.