- Research project
- – Western Pacific
Read the latest updates about the International WaterCentre, as well as contemporary water sector insights, water management news, and conversations with researchers, practitioners and students, from both Australia and abroad.
The International WaterCentre (IWC) will soon welcome more than 30 participants from across the Asia-Pacific region for the Asia-Australia Learning Week 2019, to discuss the role of decision support tools in water policy development, investment planning and the on-ground management of water resources. Learning Weeks are developed around specific themes and designed to stimulate dialogue and knowledge sharing between experts, policy makers, and practitioners, from both Australia and the broader Asia-Pacific region. The Asia-Australia Learning Week 2019 is funded by the Australian Water Partnership (AWP) and facilitated by the IWC, in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and delivery partners eWater and Alluvium. The Asia-Australia Learning Week 2019 is the third time the IWC has led a Learning Week. “The IWC has led the successful delivery of the 2016 and 2017 Learning Weeks,” says Pablo Orams, Senior Project Officer and Learning Week Project Manager at the IWC. “This experience, together with our strong relationships with the ADB, the AWP, various governments, and academic and industry organisations from across the Australian water sector, has allowed us to build a comprehensive training program for the 2019 edition of the Learning Week. We are excited to welcome a diverse group of participants and to share our experiences, as well as learning from theirs” This year’s participants include senior government and water utility representatives from various ADB Developing Member Countries (DMC) from across the Asia-Pacific region, as well as key ADB staff working in water resource-related projects with DMC representatives. Represented countries include the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Vanuatu, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, the Philippines, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Myanmar, Mongolia and China. Participants will visit Canberra and Melbourne, locations that offer unique opportunities to explore Australian working examples of decision support tools and systems at use in the water sector.
From the mountains to the sea, New Zealand’s estimated 4,200 catchments are battling challenges brought about by agricultural growth, deforestation, an increasing population, and urban development. Despite the common issues they face — contamination, nitrogen leaching, sediment run-off, and sewage overflow, among others — each catchment is different and needs a custom-built solution to restore its health, improve its quality, and ensure enough water supply for future generations. This tailored approach is the driving force behind the Greater Wellington Region’s whaitua committees. Instead of relying on a one-size-fits-all policy for the entire region, the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) decided on a more collaborative model. “It’s a mix of us wanting to do things more on a catchment scale and also to involve communities in decision-making,” says Alastair Smaill, program leader for urban water management at GWRC and the past program manager for whaitua committees. Deriving its name from the Māori word for designated area or space, a whaitua committee is tasked with recommending ways to improve and maintain the quality of freshwater in its catchment. The committee consists of representatives from the GWRC, the iwi (Māori word for tribe), the local council, and the local community. To develop a vision that’s unique to their catchment, committees need to understand how their communities use and value water, what their problems are, and how they want to solve these issues. “It’s about gathering an understanding of what community values are and then looking at decisions through that lens of community values,” Smaill says. The information gathered is then combined with scientific and economic data and presented to the community.
Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia in Spain, is turning to artificial intelligence to avoid water supply problems like those that plagued Cape Town in 2018. The city’s water supply authority, Aigües de Barcelona, is working with the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) on measures to improve water supplies and increase the efficiency of desalination operations. In one joint project, the BSC modelled the network of more than 100,000 water supply pipes across Barcelona to see which ones were most likely to fail. The work is helping Aigües de Barcelona carry out preventive maintenance to stop breakages before they happen, avoiding losses from the more than 187 cubic hectometres of drinking water the city uses every year. Another project, due to go live in 2019, will see the BSC using artificial intelligence to help improve the operation of a critical drinking water treatment plant, in the town of Sant Joan Despí near Barcelona.
“Everyone is so focused on their ‘now’ and not always thinking about the environment, which is longer term… So, we need to be better at looking after it. We need to think about everyone else, and not just ourselves.” Andrea grew up in Milwaukee, on the banks of Lake Michigan, one of the five Great Lakes of North America. Milwaukee is surrounded by water, lying along the confluence of three rivers: the Menomonee, the Kinnickinnic, and the Milwaukee. Smaller rivers, such as the Root River and Lincoln Creek, also flow through the city. Andrea credits growing up in this environment to her early decision to study Environmental Engineering and Geology at Northwestern University in Chicago. “We would often go down to the lake in the summer with friends, but even in the winter we’d be down there doing the polar plunge each New Year’s Day. My mum was also big about always getting us outside and picking up bugs and climbing trees, so that definitely influenced my decision to study it.” After graduating, Andrea worked with an environmental consultancy in Milwaukee. She investigated and cleaned up spills, detritus and contamination in the surrounding lakes and rivers, preferring to spend time in the field, in the natural environment, rather than behind a desk. During her time at the consultancy, she found herself gravitating toward the practical aspects of water resource management. “I’m really passionate about health and being proactive, and actually doing things … most of the work I was doing at the environmental consultancy was more back-end work – I was always cleaning up messes that had already been made, so I wanted to be to get into preventing these things from happening in the first place.”
The Queensland Government has set out to make the state a global leader in water modelling with the awarding of a tender to the International WaterCentre. “The QWMN has been very successful in initiating projects to address key government R&D needs, but it was obvious that we needed to look beyond government to foster external capacity building, to increase collaboration and drive innovation. So the QWMN put out a tender, worth more than $900,000 over two years, to come up with and deliver the solutions we need to drive the sector forward. “This is where the International WaterCentre (IWC) consortium comes into the picture. “The International WaterCentre led consortium were the successful tenderer with an ambitious plan to facilitate greater collaboration among water modellers and users of models across Queensland, creating a community of water modelling excellence.” IWC CEO Mark Pascoe said the consortium was looking to develop an Innovation Program that will see doctoral researchers placed and working directly with model users in Queensland – in local and state government, water supply organisations, regional natural resource management groups, mining, agriculture and the private sector, to develop practical solutions to state, regional and local economic, environmental and social challenges. “The consortium’s engagement program will also include a state-wide skills and knowledge audit to guide investment in education, training and workforce capability growth as well as a mentoring program to encourage and guide students into water modelling as a career path,” Mr Pascoe said. Mr Tony McAlister, a Director of national water and environmental engineering consultancy Water Technology, said the QWMN’s initiative to engage the IWC would assist in providing certainty and direction to the modelling community and its work. “For my company, it will help us to understand who we can work with and how to leverage opportunities for better outcomes for our clients and the community,” Mr McAlister said. “My focus is in Queensland working on urban and catchment management and restoration projects. Our challenge is to manage catchments in their entirety and to find sustainable, holistic, solutions. The direction the QWMN and the Queensland Government is taking is the right one.” Dr Rob Fearon, Director of Innovation Partnerships at qldwater, the central advisory and advocacy body within Queensland’s urban water industry, has also welcomed the QWMN initiative. “This is a fantastic opportunity to bring together different groups in water modelling, not just modellers but also end-users, to share experiences and learn from each other, building on what’s been done rather than re-inventing the wheel,” Dr Fearon said. “Queensland is definitely stepping up as a leader in this area.” The consortium members are the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Griffith University, the International WaterCentre, Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation, Queensland University of Technology, The University of Queensland, and the University of Southern Queensland. Queensland Government media statement: http://statements.qld.gov.au/Statement/2018/11/21/govt-sets-out-to-put-queensland-at-forefront-of-international-water-modelling About the author: Brett Richards is the Marketing and Communications Director at the International WaterCentre.