Professor Ashantha Goonetilleke

Find Ashantha Goonetilleke on

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

Ashantha Goonetilleke is 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, Ashantha has 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. He also has extensive professional experience. His areas of expertise include:

  • protecting and restoring water quality
  • risk-based stormwater/wastewater recycling, water conservation and efficiency and adaptation to climate change
  • resilience of water infrastructure, water security; water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)
  • staff training, capacity building and institutional strengthening.

For ten years, he was the Technical Advisor in sustainability with Brisbane Airport Corporation and held the Professorial Chair in Airport Innovation for five years. In this role, he provided advice on a range of sustainability initiatives, related policy development and R & D activities including water and energy efficiency.

For five years, he was the Director for Infrastructure Research, Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering, QUT and for three years, he was the Discipline Leader for Civil Engineering in the Science and Engineering Faculty, QUT.

Research achievements (since 2000)

Published more than 200 scholarly publications, including three books, book chapters and journal and conference papers.

Received more than $11 million in research funding from the public and the corporate sector organisations for undertaking over 50 applied research projects.

Supervised more than 40 doctoral and research Masters students.

Research areas: Within the broad field of water/environmental engineering research, Ashantha has focused on the following areas:

  • Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)
  • Adaptation to climate change
  • Protecting and restoring urban water quality
  • Stormwater/wastewater recycling and water conservation and efficiency
  • Resilience of water infrastructure and water security

His research entails field investigations, computer modelling and simulations.

Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)

Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) forms the guiding philosophy and the foundation of the research undertaken by Ashantha. The range of research areas discussed below constitutes the core areas for knowledge creation to enhance IWRM practices.

Adaptation to climate change

Ashantha’s 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. These research outcomes are in turn incorporated into a range of research areas including Integrated Water Resources Management, water infrastructure resilience and water security.

Protecting and restoring urban water quality

Ashatha’s research focuses on understanding the behaviour of pollutants through to knowledge of their impact. His research develops approaches and methods to assess and diagnose the causes, processes and pollutant sources, tools to assess exposure and to reduce human health risks, provide approaches to attain water quality standards and investigations for understanding and quantifying the treatment performance and the definition of treatment processes of Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) systems. His research includes:

  • development of analytical methods for water quality evaluation
  • characterising water pollution processes
  • fate of pollutants in the environment and their impacts
  • climate change impacts on water quality
  • water quality modelling.

Stormwater/wastewater recycling and water conservation and efficiency

Ashantha’s research identifies issues and challenges in water recycling to develop appropriate mitigation actions. An important key to sound urban water management is the integration of stormwater and recycled water as resources into the urban environment. His research includes:

  • 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

Ashantha’s 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. His research includes:

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


Individual and group awards:

  • Queensland Engineering Excellence Award (Engineers Australia) for Research and Development in relation to the Airports of the Future project (2011)
  • Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research and Partnerships and Engagement (2009)
  • Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Partnerships and Engagement (2007)
  • Award for Outstanding Academic Contribution for Research and Scholarship (2002)

Awards to organisations resulting from Ashantha’s leadership activities:

  • Grand Award for the Practical Realisation of Sustainable Urban Management: International Water Association award for Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) water sustainability initiatives (2008)
  • Best R & D Collaboration: Business Higher Education Round Table award for QUT and Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) collaboration (2006)

Supervision of postgraduate research projects Doctorates  

  1. Transformation of physical and chemical properties of pollutants during accumulation on urban surfaces due to climatic and environmental factors (ongoing)
  2. Influence of physical and chemical properties of adsorbents on heavy metal removal in industrial wastewater (ongoing)
  3. Transformation and degradation of organic pollutants on urban road surfaces (ongoing)
  4. Persistent organic pollutants in environmental matrices in Queensland , Australia (ongoing)
  5. Optimisation of Climate Change Adaptation Strategies for Urban Stormwater Management (ongoing)
  6. Assessment of sediment quality of the Brisbane River estuary (ongoing)
  7. Optimisation of In situ Bioremediation of Polychlorinated Biphenyls Contaminated Soils (ongoing)
  8. Adaptation of Water Sensitive Urban Design to Climate Change (ongoing)
  9. Developing surrogate indicators to measure community resilience to natural disasters (ongoing)
  10. Statistical Framework for Determining Design Rainfall Events for Stormwater Quality Treatment Design (ongoing)
  11. Collaborative governance in watershed management: a fallacy in environment and natural resources discourse? (ongoing)
  12. Achieving water sustainability in development practices in the Persian Gulf (ongoing)
  13. The case for low carbon transition in Qatar (ongoing)
  14. Engaging ethnic minorities in rural water supply project planning in Vietnam (ongoing)
  15. Asset management in operation of public asset response to climate change: optimising idle asset in rental scheme (ongoing)
  16. Strategic Indonesian Government asset management: its performance measurement system and response to climate change (ongoing)
  17. Assessing uncertainty in relation to urban stormwater pollutant processes (completed)
  18. Human health risk of toxic chemical pollutants generated from traffic and land use activities (completed)
  19. An Examination of the Water Quality of Northern Moreton Bay (completed)
  20. Source characterisation of build-up and wash off of urban stormwater pollutants for water quality predictions (completed)
  21. Risk management and high reliability: A case study of Australian airport management (completed)
  22. Resilience of water supply infrastructure in Southeast Queensland to meet the challenge of climate variability and population growth (completed)
  23. Influence of rainfall and catchment characteristics on urban stormwater quality (completed)
  24. First flush behaviour in urban residential catchments (completed)
  25. Performance evaluation of WSUD treatment trains (completed)
  26. Impact of climate change and urban traffic change on water quality from road runoff (completed)
  27. Relating vehicle generated pollutants to urban stormwater quality (completed)
  28. Nutrients build-up and wash-off processes in urban land uses (completed)
  29. Influence of physical and chemical properties of solids on heavy metal adsorption (completed)
  30. Build-up and wash-off process kinetics of PAHs and heavy metals on paved surfaces using simulated rainfall (completed)
  31. Translation of small-plot pollutant mobilisation and transport measurements from impermeable urban surfaces to urban catchment scale (completed)
  32. Zeolite as a chemical media in the removal of heavy metals from the  stormwater (completed)
  33. Risk-based approach to on-site wastewater treatment system siting, design and management (completed)
  34. Integrated land capability for ecological sustainability of on-site sewage treatment systems (completed)
  35. Role of soil physical and chemical characteristics and landscape factors in defining soil behaviour under long term wastewater dispersal (completed)
  36. Development of an optimal spatial decision-support system using approximate reasoning (completed)
  37. An integrated knowledge management framework for sustainable infrastructure development (completed)

Masters by Research

  1. Evaluation of the characteristics required for a resilient urban water business (ongoing)
  2. Decision support framework (DSF) using geospatial technologies for analysing human health risk (ongoing)
  3. Determination of the PPCPs residues in the Brisbane river sediments and its relationship to urbanisation (completed)
  4. Assessing resilience of water supply systems under the impact of climate change (completed)
  5. Enhancing crisis responses to large-scale system failures within the transportation networks (completed)
  6. Assessment of the efficiency of Water Sensitive Urban Development (WSUD) treatment trains implemented in South East Queensland (completed)
  7. Determining a set of surrogate parameters to evaluate stormwater quality (completed)
  8. Monitoring of urban stormwater runoff for solids and phosphorus determination using key and surrogate physico-chemical indicators (completed)
  9. Nutrient removal in a constructed wetland (completed)

Projects (Chief investigator)


Additional information

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

Industry collaborations and selected list of projects undertaken since 2000

Ashantha’s 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:

Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC)

  • Advising BAC on water sustainability initiatives resulting in 80% in savings in potable water, which was recognised with an award by the International Water Association.
  • Development of a water use Master Plan for Brisbane Airport.
  • Developed a decision-support model to optimise environmental and socio-economic planning and management for the Brisbane Airport expansion.
  • Assessed the effectiveness of the water sensitive urban design measures in order to provide recommendations for improvements in stormwater quality mitigation strategies.
  • Evaluated survey technologies for topographical data extraction in ecologically sensitive environments.

Gold Coast City Council

  • Auditing of water sensitive urban design (WSUD) application including, identification of knowledge gaps and barriers to implementation, field performance and review of the Land Development Guidelines.
  • Developed an integrated technical, ecological and public health risk-based approach to decentralised wastewater treatment system siting, design and management.
  • Assessed the scientific factors and householder perceptions inherent in the operation and maintenance of decentralised wastewater treatment systems.
  • Developed predictive methodology to evaluate the pollutant generation potential of urban developments in subtropical environments in South East Queensland.

Gold Coast City Council & Department of Transport and Main Roads, Queensland

  • Providing guidance to ‘future proof’ stormwater treatment infrastructure design against the pressures of climate change and urban population growth.

Gold Coast City Council & Department of Environment and Resource Management, Queensland

  • Evaluated the treatment performance of Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) treatment trains under South East Queensland climatic conditions.

Gold Coast City Council & Department of Public Works, Queensland

  • Relating water quality to urban form.

Brisbane City Council

  • Reviewed ‘state of the art’ technologies for the condition and structural integrity assessment of trunk sewers.
  • Developed guidelines for rehabilitation of sand mining areas in the Oxley Creek Catchment.
  • Evaluation of decentralised wastewater treatment system performance and householder perceptions on system operation and maintenance.

Caboolture Shire Council

  • Developed a water quality profile of a waterway under significant pressures due to urbanisation with a primary focus on microbiological quality and Lyngbya (blue green algae) ‘trigger parameters’.
  • Development of a ‘Critical Point Monitoring’ program to protect surface water and groundwater from stormwater runoff from forestry, agricultural and urban areas in an urbanising catchment.

Port of Brisbane Corporation, Queensland

  • Assessed pollutant build-up and wash-off from different port specific land uses using rainfall simulation to strengthen mandatory reporting requirements in relation to stormwater runoff.
  • Development of a port-specific stormwater quality model.

Logan City Council

  • Use of digital technology for effective community engagement for disaster preparedness and response.
  • Developed a performance-based planning framework based on land capability assessment to guide the location, design and management of effluent disposal from decentralised wastewater treatment systems.
  • Evaluation of decentralised wastewater treatment system performance for enhancing performance-based planning and management strategies.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service

  • Developed a stormwater management strategy for Fraser Island to optimise sand road serviceability.
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