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Kathryn Silvester (Australia)

Kathryn Silvester_profile

Planner

Sydney Water                                                                                 

 

Master of Integrated Water Management
(with IWC Scholarship)

Currently studying

 

Championing YWP empowerment and global innovations

I believe diversity is crucial in developing robust and innovative solutions that result in improvements to sustainable water management and, consequently, young professionals need better representation at the decision making table. I am passionate about empowering young water professionals so they have the confidence and the skills to be involved in these key decisions. I have played an important role improving the mentoring culture within the Australian water sector and championed the 4th Australian Young Water Professionals Conference, connecting YWPs from industry and research. Currently my focus is advocating for YWPs, promoting their views and creating opportunities so the water sector can better utilise YWPs skills to drive change and innovation.

I have also become an advocate for the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and am working with the International Water Association (IWA) Strategic Council on developing an appropriate strategy for IWA to contributing to the SDGs. In October I presented to the IWA Governing Assembly on the role developing nations need to play and made commentary in the closing ceremony of the IWA World Water Congress.

At Sydney Water I challenge colleagues to consider emerging global innovations. Recently I arranged for a site visit for Sydney Water staff at the Mulloon Institute. The Mulloon Institute have been recognised by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network as a project that demonstrates sustainable agriculture. They aim to document the restoration and rehydration of landscapes using Peter Andrew’s technics. I believe some of these technics could be applied in an urban context and it is incredibly beneficial for Sydney Water to be exposed to these ideas and ways of thinking.

 "I will continue to address wastewater management issues and work towards empowering disadvantaged communities to embrace change and adopt healthier practices."

Why interdisciplinary approaches to water management are needed

Water management is a multifaceted issue that encompasses numerous stakeholders with diverse agendas. Outcome driven improvements require water professionals to step out of their silos and understand how decisions will affect other fields such as industry, politics, communities and the environment. An interdisciplinary approach not only encourages the inclusion of appropriate stakeholders in key decisions but that these discussions are more collaborative. It promotes empathy and understanding of the main drivers for stakeholders so that the most appropriate decision can be made.

The Hawkesbury Nepean River system is utilised by agriculture industry, councils, tourism, fishing and oyster industries and various recreational users. It also receives effluent from a number of Sydney Water wastewater treatment plants and, consequently, Sydney Water is responsible for improving the water quality of this system. There is large urban and industry growth projected along the river system and there are already water quality and quantity challenges to overcome. 

Instead of upgrading treatment plants to achieve more stringent water quality limits, a better outcome may be achieved through offsetting the environmental impact with solutions that add social benefits to the growing urban communities. By approaching this problem in an integrated, outcome driven way, a solution may be developed that serves multiple purposes.

There are challenges in starting to approach problems in this manner: currently Sydney Water is regulated on effluent quality which does not allow for offsetting environmental impact. There are uncertainties of how reliable non-engineering solutions may be and how to appropriately regulate them. This is why the integrated approach is so important to changing the way we solve problems. If key stakeholders, despite their concerns, agree with the vision of an integrated solution then it starts the conversation in a collaborative way so everyone is working together to achieve a better outcome. 

Beginning the MIWM journey

In October I began a Planner role at Sydney Water as part of the new organisational structure. I am responsible for contributing to the development of forward thinking, multi-driver responsive, customer focused, integrated urban water servicing plans and waterway management plans. Integrated planning is a capability Sydney Water needs to develop and was a factor in the way the organisation was restructured.

It will be a challenge to grow this capability but, as there is appetite for it, there an incredible opportunity for someone to step up and drive change in the way we plan. I believe that the Masters of Integrated Water Management would give me the skills and capability to do so. I would immediately benefit from the modules on Science of water, catchment management and Ecosystem health, project management and water planning and economics.

Through my active participation and contribution to industry Associations, I am in a fortunate position where I my voice is heard. I have been asked to speak about the Sustainable Development Goals a number of times and am able to provide strategic advice to AWA and IWA through their Strategic Councils. The modules on Water Governance and Policy and Water, Sustainability and Development will increase my understanding in these fields, along with my ability to inform and influence in my volunteer capacity.

In the longer term, I anticipate the Masters of Integrated Water Management will influence the future direction of my career. I love what I do at Sydney Water but I am equally passionate about improving access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (especially in remote indigenous communities) and could also see a future in policy. Having exposure to these different areas will make it clearer as to where I want to channel my efforts to make improvements to sustainable water management. 

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The International WaterCentre Master of Integrated Water Management creates water leaders by drawing on international teaching and research from many fields to provide a transdisciplinary, whole-of-water-cycle approach to water management.  

 

IWC Masters Scholarships

 

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