The 2018 Developing Northern Australia Conference is almost here again and will this year be held at Alice Springs Convention Centre over Monday 18 and Tuesday 19 June. 

Ms Priyani Madan, Water Consultant at Arup joins us at the Conference to discuss ‘Quenching the need for safe, reliable water in Indigenous community’.


Port Stewart is a small, remote community in far North Queensland. It is located at the mouth of the Stewart River, Cape York Peninsula. The Lama Lama people have not had safe access to reliable water since a cyclone in 2006 destroyed their well and the pumps failed.

The current improvised arrangements are unreliable and prone to contamination. The high levels of iron and E.Coli in the water have impacted the community hygiene and health for the last decade.
Arup, partnered with Indigenous organisations Yintingga Aboriginal Corporation (YAC) and the Centre for Appropriate Technology Ltd (CAT Ltd.), as well as Engineers Without Borders’ Connect, provided probono engineering services to design a new, suitable water supply and treatment system.

The design was required to meet the local constraints: no services; minimum maintenance; suitable for non-technical community; low ongoing costs; resilience to bushfires, extreme heat, cyclones and flooding; accessible in wet season. Such constraints required innovative and appropriate design solutions, extensive stakeholder engagement, as well as financially, environmentally and socially sustainable outcomes.

The design uses solar-powered submersible bore pumps to retrieve water from below the bed sands of the river. A low-maintenance aeration filtration system, which is chemical-free and uses no electricity, will remove the high levels of iron found in the raw water source. Solar powered UV will be used to treat the water for E.Coli.

The design has enabled CAT Ltd and YAC to raise over $250,000 in funding to build the new infrastructure. With safe and reliable water, the Lama Lama people will be able to pursue new economic opportunities. Regular engagement with the Indigenous organisations and building a strong, long term relationship with CAT Ltd. ensured the design was suitable for the community and appropriate training would be provided so they could maintain the system over time.


Priyani is a water consultant at Arup, specialising in engineering design and analysis, economic strategy and designing for a whole-of-water-cycle approach. In her three years at Arup, Priyani has been involved in a variety of projects, presentations and probono work, contributing to the water sector in Australia and internationally. With a background in economics, Priyani works with clients to understand how to deliver water projects to meet their economic and wider strategic aims. Priyani is passionate about humanitarian engineering and using her engineering skills to benefit the community. In 2017, Priyani received the Young Water Professional Award at the Victorian AWA Awards.

For more information on the 2018 Developing Northern Australia Conference and to secure your spot in Alice Springs this June please visit the conference website.