Professor Ashantha Goonetilleke

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PhD (Queensland University of Technology), MSc (Griffith University), BSc(Hons) (University of Sri Lanka)

I am a Professor in Water/Environmental Engineering at Queensland University of Technology with an enduring commitment to make the water environment more sustainable and contribute to its adaptation to climate change. In keeping with this commitment, I have achieved significant success in developing extensive industry partnerships, undertaking research of relevance to industry and the community and the translation of research outcomes for practical application.

For ten years, I was the Technical Advisor on sustainability to the Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) and held the Professorial Chair in Airport Innovation for five years. In this role, I provided advice on a range of sustainability initiatives, related policy development and R & D activities including water and energy efficiency. For five years, I was the Director for Infrastructure Research, Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering, QUT and for three years, I was the Discipline Leader for Civil Engineering in the Science and Engineering Faculty, QUT.

My research entails field and laboratory investigations and computer modelling and simulations.

The foundation concepts which underpin my research are:

  • Adaptation to climate change - My research focuses on assessing the impacts of climate change on water resources including quantitative and qualitative impacts and the creation of adaptation strategies to cope with these changes.
  • Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) -  Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) forms a guiding philosophy and the foundation of my research.

The following thematic research areas constitute the core areas where I focus on knowledge creation:

  • Protecting and restoring water quality
  • Risk-based stormwater/wastewater recycling, water conservation and efficiency
  • Resilience of water infrastructure and water security;
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)

Further, I have significant experience in knowledge transfer and the application of my research for training, capacity building and institutional strengthening.

Protecting and restoring urban water quality

My research focuses on understanding the behaviour of pollutants including emerging contaminants such as PFAS, pesticides and pharmaceuticals and personal products (PPCPs) and microplastics and creating knowledge of their impacts on water and sediment matrices. This knowledge is applied for developing approaches and methods: to assess and diagnose the causes, processes and pollutant sources; tools to assess exposure and to reduce human health risks; to attain water quality standards; for understanding and quantifying the performance and the definition of treatment processes of Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) systems.

My research includes:

  • the development of analytical methods for water quality evaluation
  • characterising water pollution processes
  • understanding the fate of pollutants in the environment and their impacts and associated human health risk
  • defining climate change impacts on water quality
  • water quality modelling

Risk based stormwater/wastewater recycling and water conservation and efficiency

My research identifies issues, challenges and risks associated with water recycling and reuse in order to develop appropriate mitigation actions. An important key to sound urban water management is the integration of stormwater and recycled water as resources in the urban environment based on the concept of ‘use of water fit for purpose’.

My research focuses on:

  • stormwater pollution and treatment
  • sustainable reuse of wastewater and stormwater and water conservation
  • decentralised water and wastewater treatment
  • life cycle analysis
  • risk assessment and risk management

Resilience of water infrastructure and water security

My research focuses on the analysis of resilience of water supply infrastructure in meeting the quality and quantity challenges posed by climate change, population growth and urbanisation, in order to ensure water security to the community.

My research includes:

  • systems modelling
  • resilience assessment of water supply infrastructure
  • identifying surrogate indictors of resilience.

Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)

My research focuses on providing innovative approaches to safe water supply and sanitation to protect human and ecosystem health in the context of Sustainable Development Goal 6, ‘Clean Water and Sanitation’. The research areas include:

  • use of decentralised water supply and wastewater treatment systems
  • land application wastewater effluent
  • risk assessment

Research achievements

  • Over 300 scholarly publications, including six books and over 200 journal papers
  • Received more than $14 million in research funding from the public and the corporate sector organisations for undertaking over 50 applied research projects
  • Supervised to completion over 40 doctoral students.

Supervision of Doctorates to completion  

  1. Assessing water quality by linking sediment quality to land use
  2. Mathematical conceptualisation of stormwater pollutant first flush in urban catchments
  3. Availability and mobility of microplastics in river sediments
  4. Customized hydrochar from biomass materials for water treatment
  5. Influence of physical and chemical properties of adsorbents on heavy metal removal from industrial wastewater
  6. Occurrence and fate of some organic contaminants in soils, sediment and estuarine water from South- East Queensland
  7. Transformation and degradation of organic pollutants on urban road surfaces
  8. Optimization of In situ Bioremediation of Polychlorinated Biphenyls Contaminated Soils
  9. Adaptation of Water Sensitive Urban Design to Climate Change
  10. Transformation of physical and chemical properties of pollutants during accumulation on urban surfaces due to climatic and environmental factors
  11. Optimisation of Climate Change Adaptation Strategies for Urban Stormwater Management
  12. Assessment of sediment quality of the Brisbane River estuary
  13. Assessing uncertainty in relation to urban stormwater pollutant processes
  14. Human health risk of toxic chemical pollutants generated from traffic and land use activities
  15. An Examination of the Water Quality of Northern Moreton Bay
  16. Source characterisation of build-up and wash off of urban stormwater pollutants for water quality predictions
  17. Risk management and high reliability: A case study of Australian airport management
  18. Statistical Framework for Determining Design Rainfall Events for Stormwater Quality Treatment Design
  19. Resilience of water supply infrastructure in Southeast Queensland to meet the challenge of climate variability and population growth
  20. Influence of rainfall and catchment characteristics on urban stormwater quality
  21. First flush behaviour in urban residential catchments
  22. Performance evaluation of WSUD treatment trains
  23. Impact of climate change and urban traffic change on water quality from road runoff
  24. Relating vehicle generated pollutants to urban stormwater quality
  25. Nutrients build-up and wash-off processes in urban land uses
  26. Influence of physical and chemical properties of solids on heavy metal adsorption
  27. Build-up and wash-off process kinetics of PAHs and heavy metals on paved surfaces using simulated rainfall
  28. Translation of small-plot pollutant mobilisation and transport measurements from impermeable urban surfaces to urban catchment scale
  29. Zeolite as a chemical media in the removal of heavy metals from the  stormwater
  30. Risk-based approach to on-site wastewater treatment system siting, design and management
  31. Integrated land capability for ecological sustainability of on-site sewage treatment systems
  32. Role of soil physical and chemical characteristics and landscape factors in defining soil behaviour under long term wastewater dispersal
  33. Engaging ethnic minorities in rural water supply project planning in Vietnam
  34. Stakeholders’ preferences and environmental effectiveness of catchment management regimes in the Philippines: choice modelling and difference in differences approach
  35. Public Private Partnership Model for Low-cost Apartment Development in Surabaya Metropolitan Area
  36. Public building adaptation (PBA) in tropical developing countries
  37. Developing a decision support framework using crowdsourced data to reduce risk during disasters: the case of Brisbane
  38. Exploring a transition strategy for hydrocarbon-dependent rentier states: a focus on Qatar
  39. Surrogate approach to assess social resilience in disaster management
  40. Strategic Indonesian Government asset management: its performance measurement system and response to climate change
  41. Asset Management in Operation of Public Asset Response to Climate Change: Optimising Idle Asset in Rental Scheme
  42. Development of an optimal spatial decision-support system using approximate reasoning
  43. An integrated knowledge management framework for sustainable infrastructure development

Additional information

  • 1994 – present: Academic and Researcher, QUT. Currently, Professor in Water/Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering Faculty
  • 2005 – 2010: Director for Infrastructure Research, Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering, QUT
  • 2007 – 2011: Professorial Chair in Airport Innovation
  • 2017 – 2019: Discipline Leader, Civil Engineering, Science and Engineering Faculty

Industry collaborations and projects undertaken 

My research and contributions are closely linked, and the research outcomes have been of immediate relevance to industry and have acted as a catalyst to change industry practices. This has been achieved by understanding industry needs and establishing strong collaborative relationships and trust through effective communication, the delivery of quality outcomes based on strong science and professional practice.

A selected list of projects undertaken include:

Protecting and restoring water quality

  • Review of guidelines for undertaking development activities in water supply catchments (SEQ Water, Australia)
  • Developed guidelines for rehabilitation of waterway sand mining areas close to urban population centres (Brisbane City, Australia)
  • Developed a ‘critical point monitoring’ program based on microbial and chemical risk assessment to safeguard water resources (Caboolture City, Australia)
  • Assessed the effectiveness of the water sensitive urban design measures to provide recommendations for improvement in stormwater quality mitigation strategies at the Brisbane Aiport
  • Auditing of water sensitive urban design (WSUD) application and barriers to implementation, field performance and review of the Land Development Guidelines (Gold Coast City, Australia)
  • Developed predictive methodology to evaluate the pollutant generation potential of urban developments in subtropical environments in South East Queensland (Gold Coast City)
  • Evaluated the treatment performance of Water Sensitive Urban Design treatment trains under South East Queensland climatic conditions (Gold Coast City)
  • Assessed pollutant build-up and wash-off from different port specific land uses to strengthen mandatory reporting requirements in relation to stormwater runoff (Port of Brisbane Australia)
  • Created a port-specific stormwater quality model (Port of Brisbane)

Risk based stormwater/wastewater recycling and water conservation and efficiency

  • Developed a sustainable water use strategy which enabled a 72% reduction in potable water consumption (Brisbane Airport, Australia)
  • Water use Master Plan for Brisbane Airport for a 20-year horizon
  • Securing Water for Agricultural and Food Sustainability: Developing Transdisciplinary Approach to Groundwater Management, India

Resilience of water infrastructure and water security

  • Review of the Climate Change Strategy for Qatar (Govt. of Qatar)
  • Community focused smart technologies to enhance flood resilience in high risk areas (Logan City)
  • Developed a decision-support framework to optimise environmental and socio-economic benefits from infrastructure expansion (Brisbane Airport)
  • Future-proofing stormwater treatment infrastructure against the pressures of climate change and population growth (Gold Coast City)
  • Recommendations on ‘state of the art’ technologies for condition and structural integrity assessment of trunk sewers (Brisbane City)

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)

  • Created a decision support framework for guide sustainable sanitation strategies for Semarang, Indonesia (Indonesia Infrastructure Initiative)
  • Integrated framework to mitigate public and ecosystem health risk from decentralised wastewater treatment systems (Gold Coast City)
  • Created a performance-based framework to guide the design of effluent disposal areas for decentralised wastewater treatment systems (Brisbane City)
  • Assessed the scientific factors and householder perceptions inherent in the operation and maintenance of decentralised wastewater treatment systems (Gold Coast City)
  • Evaluation of decentralised wastewater treatment system performance for enhancing performance-based planning and management strategies (Logan City Australia)

Capacity building and institutional strengthening

  • Co-coordinator of a specialist course on ‘Green Water Infrastructure – Sustainable Stormwater Management’ conducted under the aegis of the Indian Ministry of Human Resources Development for the Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN), Govt. of India
  • Strengthening Water Security and Cooperation in South Asia: Integrated Water Resources Management, for senior professionals from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia (DFAT)
  • Lecture series on Australian practices in sustainable water resources management and climate change adaptation, Shenzhen General Institute of architectural Design and Research, Nanning Municipal Design Group, Shenzhen Water Group, Guangdong Water Resources Bureau, Shenzhen Municipal Design Group, Changzhou Drainage Administration, China
  • ‘Internationalisation of research collaboration’, lecture series delivered in Chile, Argentina and Brazil, Australian Government
  • Water security, poverty alleviation and rural development under climate change – Sri Lanka, AusAID
  • Environmental conservation and sustainable development in Paraguay through community engagement – Paraguay, AusAID
  • Building climate change resilience through Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) – Sri Lanka, AusAID
  • Public asset management: adaptation to climate change – Indonesia, AusAID
  • Strengthening private sector involvement in public asset creation and management – Indonesia, AusAID
Academic Honours, Prestigious Awards or Prizes
Reference year
Vice-Chancellor┬┐s Award for Excellence in Partnerships and Engagement, QUT
Academic Honours, Prestigious Awards or Prizes
Reference year
Vice-Chancellor┬┐s Award for Excellence in Research and Partnerships and Engagement, QUT
Airports of the Future
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
Start year
Complex Systems Engineering; Airport Operations Management; Business Process Modelling; Surveillance and Identity Management; Human Systems Interaction; Risk and Emergency Management
Adaptation of Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) to Climate Change, Changing Transport Patterns and Urban Form
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
Start year
Stormwater Quality; Urban Water Quality; Water Sensitive Urban Design; Transport Impacts; Climate Change Impacts; Stormwater Infrastructure
Novel Nanomaterials for Photocatalytic Water Purification - Science and Application
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
Start year
Titania; Photocatalysis; Water Reuse; Water Treatment; Surface Chemistry; Fluid Dynamics
The Airport Metropolis: Managing the Interfaces
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
Start year
land use planning; infrastructure; governance; economic development; airports; urban development