Dr Peter Coombes


Dr Peter Coombes

Professor Coombes is a Systems Thinker, Scientist, Engineer, Economist, Problem Solver and Policy Analyst, a Provider of Alternative Perspective and a Designer of sustainable cities, projects and buildings.

Peter Coombes is a director of Urban Water Cycle Solutions that operates as an independent research, policy and consulting group, a Fellow of Engineers Australia, a member of the National Engineering Register (NER) and a Certified Practising Engineer (CPeng) at the highest level (EngExec). Peter has a PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering, undergraduate degrees in Engineering (Civil and Environment), Surveying and Economics, and a diploma of Legal Studies. He is an Honorary and Visiting Professor in the Crawford School of Public Policy at Australian National University and was most recently a Professor of Water Resources Engineering, Chair of Engineering and Associate Dean (Education) at Southern Cross University.

Peter is an editor the Urban Book of Australian Rainfall and Runoff published by Engineers Australia and was awarded the 2018 GN Medal for Hydrology and Water Resources and the 2019 Presidents Prize by Engineers Australia. Professor Coombes is a member of the steering committee at Imperial College London for the CAMELLIA research programme and a former Deputy President of Stormwater Australia. He has held senior academic positions University of Newcastle, University of Melbourne and Swinburne University. Peter Coombes was a Chief Water Scientist in the Victorian Government and recently contributed to inquiries into stormwater management and flooding by the Senate of the Australian Parliament and into water resources by the Productivity Commission.

Peter’s experience includes managing director of Bonacci Water, a member of the water advisory group to the Prime Ministers Science, Engineering and Innovation Council, the advisory council on alternative water sources for the Victoria Government’s Our Water Our Future policy, a member of the advisory panel on urban water resources to the National Water Commission, an advisor on alternative water policy to the United Nations and a national research leader of innovative WSUD strategies in the eWater CRC. Peter Coombes has generated over 250 scientific publicationsdesigned more than 120 sustainable projects including settlements that generate all of their water resources and manage flooding  and designed more than 120 sustainable projects including settlements that generate all of their water resources and manage flooding.

See Google Scholar  and ORCID for details of research impact.

Professor Coombes was also a co-author of Australian Runoff Quality and a former chair of the Stormwater Industry Association.He has experience in change processes in government, development of government policy and managing complex engineering business collaborations. His professional and research interests include systems thinking and analysis, hydrology, water resources, economics, molecular sciences, water quality and public policy

Click here to download  CV_Prof_Peter_Coombes_Dec22    Selected_Publications_2022


Doctor of Philosophy, University of Newcastle, 2002 Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) (Hons), 1997 Bachelor of Surveying (Hons), 1998 Associate Diploma of Engineering (Hons), 1992 Accredited GreenStar Professional, 2008, Bachelor of Economics, 2022, Diploma of Legal Studies, 2022, Awarded R.S Neale Memorial Economics Prize

Key strengths

  • Systems thinker, analysist and strategist
  • Ability to understand and solve complex problems with associated leadership
  • Investigation and design of stormwater management, flood mitigation, water supply and wastewater management strategies
  • Capacity building and management of multiple disciplinary teams involved in change processes
  • Strong experience of political processes involved with water cycle management policies at international, federal, state and local government levels. Indeed this experience includes initiating policy reform at Ministerial levels.
  • Research leadership and management in challenging environments
  • Data collection, forenzic analysis, software development and simulation of systems
  • The ability to design and deliver integrated systems, particularly water cycle systems
  • Technical investigation and academic research using first principles engineering analysis, investment economics and microbiological science
  • Extensive government, policy and regulatory understanding of water, urban development, planning and sustainability issues
  • Creation of evidence based policies and regulation
  • Excellent oratory skills – public speaking, seminars, technical lectures and media engagements
  • Strong written communication style – technical publications, consultancy reports, public policy and public commentary such as opinion pieces

Summary of experience

Consulting and research

  • Designed and developed over 120 sustainable developments in Australia and internationally
  • Author of over 170 research publications, including book chapters, journal articles, keynote papers and conference publications, and supervision of 5 completed PhD research programs
  • Delivery of many research and consulting projects across science, engineering and economic issues relating to water resources including integrated water cycle management, source control, catchment management, ecological sustainability, water demand, water balance modelling, water resource economics and bio-chemistry
  • Awarded more than $3 million in competitive and industry research funding
  • Chair of Engineering and Associate Dean (Education) at Southern Cross University.
  • Founding and Managing Director of Bonacci Water (2008 – 2012)
  • Managing Director of Urban Water Cycle Solutions (1998 -)
  • National research leader for innovative Water Sensitive Urban Design strategies in eWater CRC (2005 – 2010)
  • Chairman of the Stormwater Industry Association

Government advisory

  • Expert evidence in engieering, planning and legal proceedings
  • Chief Water Scientist at Office of Living Victoria in the Victorian Government (2012 – 2013)
  • Member of water advisory panel of the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council (2006-07)
  • Member of the Urban Water Advisory Panel of the National Water Commission (2006 – 2008)
  • Advisor, United Nations Water Security Section, Environment and Development Division
  • Advisor to international Governments including Canada, Saudi Arabia, India, Korea and New Zealand
  • Assisted New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australian and Queensland Governments in the development of water, planning and regulatory policy (1999 – )
  • Author of policy reviews and design guides for Water Sensitive Urban Design and Integrated Water Cycle Management across all levels of Government
  • Member of Victorian Government’s Our Water Our Future panel on alternative water sources (2007)
  • Advisor on regional stormwater management projects for the Victoria Department of Sustainability and Environment (2006).
  • Author of and expert adviser to the Victorian Government Living Melbourne, Living Victoria water policy for Greater Melbourne (2010 – 2014)
  • Author of the integrated systems analysis, alternative water and business strategy for the Greater Sydney region for the Board of Sydney Water Corporation.
  • Leader and co-developer of the original capacity building program for integrated water cycle management and water sensitive urban design in the Hunter region of New South Wales that involved 16 local government areas, water authorities, government agencies and the community (1998 – 2002).
  • Special project officer, Infrastructure and Planning Manager, Newcastle and Maitland City Councils
  • Director of the program to develop the Melbourne Integrated Water Cycle strategy for the Office of Living Victoria
  • Leader of water reform process for restoring the Al Asfar Lake system in the historical city of Al Hasa in Saudi Arabia

Conferences and publications

  • Chair technical committee of Stormwater2020
  • Chair, 13th International Rainwater Catchment Systems Conference, Sydney, 2007
  • Chair, 5th International Water Sensitive Urban Design Conference, Sydney, 2007
  • Co-author of “Australian Runoff Quality”
  • Editor and co-author of “Australian Rainfall and Runoff”

Career highlights

  • Leadership in modernisation of the Science and Engineering Curiculum and creation of the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Southern Cross University.
  • Systems Framework research and development acknowledged by Engineers Australia as one of the most significant contributions to water resources and hydrology in 2014-15 and awarded the G.N. Alexander Medal in 2018
  • Author of the Urban Book of Australian Rainfall and Runoff for Engineers Australia. Awarded the 2019 Presidents Prize.
  • Appointment as Office of Living Victoria’s Chief Water Scientist and contribution to the successful submission of Melbourne’s Water Future strategy to the Victoria Government Cabinet.
  • Strong experience in leading high level teams in complex and challenging political environments
  • Development of non-linear economic methods that account for the actual depreciation of water assets that allow more realistic planning for infrastructure management
  • Establishment of the one of the first stormwater management divisions within a local government authority.
  • Development of integrated systems analysis approaches that allow understanding of the decentralized, multiple scaled and regional impacts of water and energy solutions throughout cities, regions and countries. This process provides an understanding of the performance of solutions at multiple scales in response to multiple objectives.
  • Developed and refined first principles methods for combining hydrology, hydraulics, topography, weather and demographics in analysis of flooding, stormwater runoff, wastewater discharges, water use and environmental impacts in a systems framework.
  • Development of dynamic systems economic methods to allow understanding of the value of solutions at multiple scales across society.
  • Delivery of systems analysis and policy research, and applied policy processes to led to government policies to allow and encourage urban rainwater harvesting and decentralized water management. In particular, research and policy advice that ultimately led to creation of the state environmental policy BASIX in New South Wales. This project included interaction with the NSW Cabinet.
  • Completion of PhD research that developed a systems approach to water cycle management and economics. Followed by the award of an Australian Research Council Post Doctoral Fellowship and ultimately an Associate Professor at University of Newcastle and Melbourne University. Awarded over $3 million in competitive and industry research funding, and completion of a large number of influential publications in less than a decade.
  • Leader and strategist in the original capacity building program for water cycle management and Water Sensitive Urban Design in the Hunter Region of New South Wales. This was essentially a change program to move the water and planning industries from traditional approaches to a more diverse range of solutions and to augment the capacity of those professions. Importantly, this original program has been replicated throughout Australian in a range of similar strategies such as Clearwater in Melbourne and WSUD in Sydney.
  • A contribution over a period of more than twenty years as a forensic and systems analyst to find solutions to significant problems throughout the Australian and international water industry. This has involved the resolution of a wide range of challenges from country towns, regional flooding and metropolitan water resources. This contribution has also included key roles in many major projects.
  • Founding and Managing Director of Urban Water Cycle Solutions and Bonacci Water. Both companies have been dedicated to development of systems and forensic analysis leading to transparent policy and project advice to industry and government. Both companies have achieved financial success from start-up (Bonacci Water ultimately achieved an annual value of about $2 million) in a difficult business environment already dominated by existing consultancies with established relationships with bureaucracy.
  • Contribution to and leadership in many public policy processes including The Living Victoria Living Melbourne water policy reform process, the Sydney Water Alternative Water Strategy, The Water Advisory Group of the Prime Minister’s Science Engineering and Innovation Council and Urban Water Advisory Group of the National Water Commission.
  • Initiated and contributed to the creation of Bluescope Water as a subsidiary company of Bluescope Steel to provide an alternative water solutions throughout Australia
  • Provided advice to the Canadian national government that led to policies for wastewater reuse, stormwater and rainwater harvesting.
  • Leader of a program to restore the Al Asfar Lake system at Al Hasa in Saudi Arabia. This role included liaison with all levels of the government and coordination of efforts to change attitudes and policies relating to the water cycle.

Click here to download  Prof Peter Coombes CV     Selected_Publications_2021