Centre for Environmental Sustainability and Water Security (IPASA), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) has been awarded a research grant of RM 199,615 to improve community health in Malaysia using sustainable Decentralised Wastewater Treatment (WWT). Under Newton Fund, UTM is working together with Newcastle University (NU); the project officially starts on April 2019 and ends on March 2020. This 2-years project is lead by IPASA’s Deputy Director, Prof. Dr. Zainura Zainon Noor and her team, which compromised of six academic staff from UTM.

This project provides a platform for UTM, NU, Indah Water Konsortium (IWK) Sdn. Bhd. as well as various governmental and industrial partners to guide decentralised WWT solutions for Malaysia. Malaysian Ministries have prioritised improving water quality as a pathway to improved health (“One Health” ethos), especially reducing antimicrobial resistance (AR) exposures, including AR genes (ARG) and bacteria (ARB) in the environment. Unfortunately, few effective small-scale WWT options exist and new technologies are needed for rural application, particularly sustainable systems.

Recent pilot work by NU and UTM, has developed a promising new technology for rural applications (denitrifying down- flow hanging-sponge systems; DDHS), which will be a key part of this project. The project commences by NU holding a skill-building workshop for Early Career Researchers (ECRs) on molecular methods for comparing WWT options. Building upon this skill, one year of monitoring will be performed by UTM and NU on eight WWT systems. As data are gained, a parameterized Decision-Support Tool will be developed by UTM for water companies and Malaysian Ministries (our associated partners) to guide industry and government decisions aimed at improving WWT, water quality, and health in rural areas. Furthermore, UTM will host a symposium at the end of the project to extend uptake across Malaysia and SE Asia.