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What are the future Issues that Water Management Decisions in Queensland need to include?

It’s a huge question! So it’s not surprising that on Thursday, 2 March 2023 IWC QWMN & FCoP packed a day’s agenda with expert panels, stimulating activities and thought provoking presentations to address this water question.

At the top floor of QUT Kelvin Grove’s impressive new E Block overlooking Victoria Park, forty-five water professionals from Consultancies, Academia, Local Government, State Government, NRM organisation, Water Utilities, Education services and an NGO, gathered together. We were welcomed by our Host Professor Kerrie Wilson (Pro Vice-Chancellor – Sustainability and Research Integrity). She opened the day with the acknowledgement that water is central to our culture, our identity and to our life. It was encouraging to hear how QUT are embedding sustainability into all aspects of their operations living true to their Real World Impact mantra.

Link to Banner Image by Thoughts Drawn Out 

We quickly launched into the program with the first panel session. Piet Filet was joined by Town Planning expert Greg Vann (Director, Planning Ethos Urban), Local Government genius Kaye Cavanagh (Manager Environment and Sustainability, Ipswich City Council), Hydrogen Energy Researcher Jonathan Love (Associate Professor, QUT) and Cultural Values representative Ashleigh Faranda (Process Engineer, Jacobs) to unpack the various Trends and Drivers that will influence the water agenda in next 5 to 10 years. Conversation covered a variety of topics from how we’re going to accommodate population growth, what’s driving it and what role water has. We also heard a beautiful local indigenous story from Ashleigh that demonstrated how powerful stories are for sharing knowledge. Jonathon introduced us to the new world of Hydrogen power – we recommend you keep your eyes on this one. And Kaye gave some ground truths about how we interact with and value stormwater and our waterways, and what this means for the future of water management.

Everyone then moved out into small groups to explore the mix of drivers we see impacting us into the future and what effects will they have. Some of the common drivers & their effects were:

  • Population growth & development – effecting water supply & costs, increased runoff and pollution
  • Climate change – impacting predictability & intensity of flooding, frequency of droughts & increasing bushfire risk
  • Competing demands for Water e.g. potable water supply vs agriculture vs energy vs industry vs environment – pricing increases, restricted availability.

To refuel for the next session we were spoilt with French pastries and other delicacies from C’est Bon at morning tea.

Following this Mike Foster (water sector expert), Sharon McIntosh (Water & Energy Policy Advisor, Queensland Farmers Federation) and Uwe Dulleck (Professor of Economics at QUT) gave short presentations on the types of decision making that’s needed to create action.

Mike, with his ‘shopping list’ of trends and drivers in our region, gave an overview of the opportunities that government and community, including First Nations’ people, have to guide and influence water management.

Sharon, gave a global tour of the water management profile of developing/industrial nations vs the EU vs US & UK as a benchmark to compare Qld’s water management profile and to understand the differing pressures and attitudes at play. From an agricultural perspective the biggest Water issues are affordability, reliability and efficiency. The flow on effect of these issues is going to need strong leadership for a ‘transitional + multisector policy strategy to reduce industry risk’.

Uwe stepped up next to educate us on Behavioural Economics 101 (in 20 minutes!). Through a brief experiment we experienced firsthand how the ‘decision environment’ can influence behaviour and beliefs. This is exciting science for better understanding how our contingent may engage in behavioural change policies and regulation regarding water.

Inspired by this variety of perspectives, we once again broke off into small groups. This time to imagine we were one of 12 different personas – think Local Mayor or Small Business Owner – and consider how they interact with and make decisions about water.

We were rewarded for our efforts with delicious French cuisine for lunch, thanks again to C’est Bon.

Back in the room Sarah Cochrane re-energised us with some movement medicine – aka Yoga!

Freshly energised we then sunk our teeth into some hearty, ‘systems thinking’ type discussions about important linkages between water and the key trends and drivers. Brian McIntosh deftly facilitated discussions with Annabel Hofstee (Urban Utilities, Sustainability and Risk Futures Strategist) and Steven Kenway (UQ, Professor and Research Group Leader) to synthesise the outcomes of this group work.

The afternoon finished with a panel that spanned decades of experience to discuss ‘How different will this future be and what are the implications for decision makers?’ Panel speakers included brains trust Greg Claydon (Independent water specialist), one of our passionate early career professionals Himanthi Mendis (Engineer, Mott MacDonald), regional representative from Stanthorpe Ken Waldron (Advisor, Walpark) and experienced engineer John Ruffini (Director Water Planning and Coastal Sciences, Department of Environment and Sciences). The Conversation started with a century old historical account of the Irrigation and Water Supply Commission’s issues of the time. Turns out they were very similar issues that we’re discussing in the new millennium! Our technology may be more advanced but we still need data and modelling to inform our decisions and the human element and the needs of the natural environment is ever more important.

So what now – what are the next steps for the rich data that was collected from the group?

The great images and notes from Hayley Langsdorf and Venita Brown provide a unique synopsis of what is in play.  And we do invite you all to spend sometime looking at these visual stories and see how that matches what you see as the future:  does it help you better position:

  • what you do as a water and/or allied professional and
  • what your organisation needs to better consider into the future???

The future reinvestment business case of the QWMN is currently being developed and the issues raised by this network meeting will certainly be shared with the business case team and be incorporated as part of the industry perspective of what is important and what this might mean for the scope of modelling in the future.  Also we hope to share the workshop outcomes with the QWMN advisory committee so they too can be aware of our collective insights.

In addition the team from the Department of Regional Development Manufacturing and Water are constantly on the lookout for broad based  water professional perspectives on future in insights and I know that Director General Linda Dobe  is eager to be briefed on the views coming out of the event.

Some specific follow-on activities from this event for the Network are options to:

  • Further explore what the Hydrogen spatial map looks like and what that means for local water sources
  • Visit the Stanthorpe district and see and hear first and on what a systems based approach top water management might be in this diverse water use district with significant water availability challenges


Additional Resources

Shared presentations from the day

Uwe Dulleck’s Presentation – https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1_bO9l9oj0fhRLJ1EJwip7ueFMqHg8Kxn/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=108767358036427260527&rtpof=true&sd=true

Mike Foster’s Presentationhttps://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1tDeC-OTkaiaQxciRYLxqBMVVcyMrS6gy/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=116886425405753521917&rtpof=true&sd=true

Sharon McIntosh’s Presentationhttps://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1cXyMJtdB2MgtmjjlDgELcfFGCmxi4RgP/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=116886425405753521917&rtpof=true&sd=true


Thoughts Drawn Out sketch-note resources

Banner Image: Water Future’s: An Overview

Key Trends Impacting Water Management (5-10 yr) (activity)

Issues Facing Decision Makers

How Different is this Future?

Specialists Perspectives: Trends (panel discussion)

Who Makes Decisions About My Water (activity)

Mapping Issues with Future Water Needs (activity)

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