solving the water crisis


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About the author

Colin Austin has had a varied career after graduating in
engineering from Sheffield University in 1963.  He started his
career in process control, gradually building up expertise in the
control of plastics processing equipment, working as R & D
Manager of Johns Hydraulics before taking a spell in academia
lecturing at RMIT in Melbourne.

Some years ago, Colin wrote a piece of software that transformed
the international design of plastics moulds using scientific
principles rather than 'gut feel'.  So successful was this software
that the company that Colin founded (Moldflow) became the
largest exporter of technical software in Australia, a multi-million
dollar company selling in over 48 countries throughout the world.

He became increasingly concerned about environmental issues,
particularly the management of what he sees as the worlds most
critical resource;- fresh water.   Just as he had changed the plastics
industry from a 'hunch based' to a science based process, he saw
that irrigation technology could be transformed by the application
of the scientific approach.

A key success was the development of micro flood irrigation
which uses thin wall blown film to transport and deliver water
under gravity, replacing the traditional open channels which lead
to major losses of water by evaporation and leakage.  The heart
of the system is a simple sequencing valve which squeezes the
plastic pipe shut, to control the water distribution and allow precise
applications of water.

He has continued his software development with scheduling software
which enables precise applications of water.  The software calculates plant water
usage and water holding capacity of the soil from soil and plant

He has just returned from Ethiopia where he has been working with
World Vision to train local farmers in how to install and operate
this simple but effective technology.  He is now working toward the
manufacture of the blown film pipe in Ethiopia from recycled
plastics bags which he believes will save thousands of lives by
enabling local farmers to grow food under the cyclic droughts
which leads to the death of many thousands of people.

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24 april-3


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