Environmental Engineering student Tom Wheeler will receive $60,000 in funding through the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) Friendship Grants program to launch a new environmental initiative in Indonesia
After successfully applying for the grant, Mr Wheeler and his partners, including Moerk Water Solutions and the Australian Surfrider Foundation will build a solar-powered seawater desalination unit at a school on the island of Nusa Lembongan near Bali, providing its students with clean drinking water.
In addition, not-for-profit organisation Bottle for Botol will provide the school children with reusable water bottles, in a bid to reduce the volume of single-use plastic cups used, which inevitably end up in the ocean or washed up on Bali’s beaches.
“A lack of safe drinking water and plastic pollution are serious problems facing people all over Indonesia and this collaboration seeks to demonstrate a new sustainable way forward,” Mr Wheeler said.
Recent Murdoch graduate Saphron Stapleton, who now has a degree in Sustainable Development and International Aid & Development and is an employee of Moerk Water Solutions, will join Mr Wheeler in his endeavour.
“This Friendship Grant will allow Saphron and I to continue our work with the Australian Surfrider Foundation and Bottle for Botol to fight the problem of plastics in our oceans through education programs and alternative localised technologies, including the solar-powered seawater desalination plant,” Mr Wheeler said.
Directors of Moerk Water Solutions Martin and Barbara Brezger in O'Connor, WA said they were pleased to support Mr Wheeler in this new project.
“We are proud to be able to work with him to supply this equipment for the children of Nusa Lembongan," Mr Brezger said.
Recently completing the penultimate year of his degree in Environmental Engineering, Mr Wheeler has completed overseas and domestic internships, and has taken on multiple volunteering opportunities to share his passion for innovative solutions to environmental problems.
Under the Federal Government’s New Colombo Plan, Mr Wheeler joined a group of students in a project led by Murdoch Chair of Environmental Engineering Dr Martin Anda earlier this year, to demonstrate solar-powered water treatment technology developed by Moerk Water Solutions to a number of remote Indonesian villages.
For his case study on the ‘renewable energy reverse osmosis desalination in a small Indonesian village,’ Mr Wheeler was recently awarded the Student Water Prize at the WA Water Awards hosted by the Australian Water Association, and is now in the running for a national award.
Dr Anda said Mr Wheeler was an inspiration to his fellow students and peers.
"Tom is an extraordinary student - not only does he do exceptionally well in his studies, he works as an ambassador for the university, he rises early every morning to enjoy the beautiful surf and seawater in the ocean he treasures, and he works tirelessly to assist developing communities and the natural environment in Indonesia where he also loves to go surfing,” he said.