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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.
Flooding parks, state-of-the-art underground water networks and predator gardens—it might sound like the work of science fiction, but it’s just some of the ways that New Orleans is building a more resilient city, and helping to look after its most vulnerable residents. Since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005—resulting in some 1,833 deaths, displacing around 273,000 people, and resulting in USD $41.1 billion dollars in insurance payments to people affected across six states—New Orleans has been looking at ways to mitigate future disasters, particularly for the city’s poorest residents.
Water supply is under more strain than ever in Asia, as major changes in development, population, and climate change are all stretching resources. In order to help meet the increasing demand for water, many organisations are bringing together human and economic resources to make clean water a powerful source of transformation. Vanh Mixap, who spent time working with Engineers Without Borders and Oxfam in Cambodia, found that when helping build the capacity of female entrepreneurs, soft skills, including mindset, were just as critical to develop as hard economics or technical skills, but were often overlooked. “We brought together about 10 women from across the country, who had the potential to turn their business ideas related to both water and energy into something more tangible,” she says. “The women went through a program to strengthen their knowledge about water supply and sanitation and to sharpen their entrepreneurial skills to address the water and energy related challenges in their own context, with the opportunity to earn a living.” Mixap says the program was an initiative to empower women to create a job that fits their unique circumstances, while contributing to positive social and environmental outcomes. “In the work that I do, usually I would challenge a “pump and pipe solution” to water supply as the only solution and explore what else is possible. I found that by engaging the voices of people who are often not included in the decision-making processes, it opened up possibilities many of us couldn’t imagine.”
The International WaterCentre’s (IWC) scholarship period for entry to study in 2020 is in full swing, with applicants from across Australia, New Zealand and the world vying for one of these prestigious awards. Scholarships for the Master of Integrated Water Management (MIWM), the new Master of Catchment Science (MCS), the Water Leadership Program and Graduate Certificate in Water Leadership are all up for grabs. “We invest in providing multiple scholarships each year for entry into our postgraduate, professional development water programs to high-calibre candidates who we think best demonstrate potential as future water leaders,” says Dr Brian S. McIntosh, IWC Education Director. “For our MIWM, recipients come from across the world – from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Kenya, Laos, Pakistan, the United States, Ireland, Poland, Peru, to name a few. And from across the spectrum of disciplines found working in the water sector – engineers, scientists, lawyers, economists, community development practitioners, data specialists, planners and architects, the list goes on." Dr McIntosh says that the aim of the MIWM is to help develop water leaders who are able to play a significant role in shaping the water sector. "Our graduates transform the way that we plan and deliver WASH services, how we think about and manage water in urban environments and in water resources, and develop effective and innovative water financing solutions to enable private sector involvement in water and sustainable development.” Next year, the IWC will welcome the first cohort of students into the new Master of Catchment Science degree, the only postgraduate, catchment-dedicated degree in the world, which has been developed in collaboration with Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute (ARI), School of Engineering and Built Environment and School of Environment and Sciences. “For our new MCS, we are looking to attract participants from across Australia, New Zealand and around the world. In particular, we are looking for scientists and engineers who are keen to develop leading edge skills and knowledge that enable them to practice effectively across the boundaries of the natural sciences, engineering, computing, data analysis and economics. With the new MCS we are looking to develop the next generation of catchment science and engineering leaders able to critically develop and assess technical plans, projects, programs and infrastructures to restore and protect catchment functions for ecological, economic and social benefit.” “This means that both of our Masters programs are diverse – each have a blend of people with different professional backgrounds, from different cultures and with different life experiences. We structure our learning processes to ensure that each cohort gets to know each other really well and is able to learn from each other. In the end, they form a life-long network.”
Climate change means more than just shifting weather patterns, it is changing the way our children live—and when they are expected to die. That is the view of Professor Sharyn Rundle-Thiele, Griffith University's Director of Social Marketing and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Social Marketing. "Evidence shows that for the first time in human history children’s lifespans are forecast to be shorter than their parents predicted lifespan," she said. This is because human behaviour contributing towards climate change is also leading people to be "fatter and unhappier than ever before", Professor Rundle-Thiele said. "Our health and social wellbeing are suffering," she added. Which is why it is so important to deliver the message of climate change to today's youngest generation, so they can have a positive impact on the environment of tomorrow, as well as their own lives.
“You can pull it all apart, but really, at the end of the day, we’re a biological, moving bit of carbon and that’s all we’ve got.” Morgan McPherson has spent his life immersed in nature, advocating for its rights and protection. His links with conservation started early; his mother often brought him to Greenpeace rallies and meetings as a toddler. “I grew up between the hills and the city of Adelaide - very green in winter, and dry in summer. Although, during the millennial drought from 2000 onwards, it became very dry, and people had to be very conscious and aware of water use. At home we were always funnelling off grey water onto the garden, using buckets in the sink and minimising waste where ever we could.” He has since travelled the length and breadth of Australia, in search of a way to express his passion for the environment and conservation, and for a fitting career. He jokingly describes his career moves since graduating high school as ‘left, right and centre’. One of Morgan’s first jobs was as a volunteer in the horticulture department of Adelaide Zoo, where he eventually landed a paid position. He then moved into varied roles, from conservation to horticulture and interpretation to customer engagement, which all influenced his decision to complete a Diploma of Conservation and Land Management. A desire to move away from tourism led him to other environment-focused roles, including a stint as a ranger in the Northern Territory, a life guard on the Great Barrier Reef and as a koala feeder at Seaworld on the Gold Coast. “Going into my diploma was hands down, by accident, the best thing I have ever done. It gave me some skills, put me into the field a lot and gave me some good foundational skills” With years under his belt in the field, Morgan became frustrated with the small ‘band-aid fixes’ often employed by conservationists who were more concerned with deploying what was the most cost-effective solution, rather than what was more effective and considerate of the long term. “Coming from an ecological background, we work on the understanding that no part of an ecosystem acts without any influence on, or from, another part. [I think] it’s that understanding that makes me look at any management issues, especially ones as complex as water management, with a slightly different view than most.” Frustrated with the ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ attitude, Morgan came to the conclusion that his knowledge and experience could be extremely useful as a leader, in both the conservation and water sectors. To help solidify his knowledge, Morgan joined the Master of Integrated Water Management degree at the International WaterCentre. He hopes to use the program to improve on his leadership skills and explore water management approaches to conservation. “I would like to change people’s attitude of the environment, from being a stationary object that gets in the way, to one where we see it as a fantastic tool that can minimise work, reduce costs and thrive under our management.” Morgan McPherson is a current Master of Integrated Water Management student at the International WaterCentre. About the author: Dahna Morrisson writes as a correspondent for the International WaterCentre, charged with exploring water challenges and the ways these challenges are managed around the world.