Water Journal : Water Journal February 2015
water FEBRUARY 2015 AWA NATIONAL OPERATIONS CONFERENCE 2014 Iain Fairbairn, Co-Chair of the Operations Specialist Network, filed this report on the recent National Operations Conference held in Far North Queensland. The third AWA National Operations Conference was held in Cairns from 28–30 October 2014. The theme of the conference was ‘Affordability, Liveability, Sensitivity – Operations in the Twenty Teens’. Water professionals in operations are continually under pressure to reduce costs, but the focus of this conference was also on understanding the impact our operations have on the environment and the critical role that the water industry plays in protecting the environment for future generations. It was the current degraded state of the Great Barrier Reef that inspired the Operations Network Committee to host the 2014 Conference in Cairns. It is estimated that the Great Barrier Reef was formed around 500,000 years ago and that the structures that make up the reef today are between 6000 and 8000 years old. Coral reefs grow very slowly and a 2012 study showed that around half the coral cover on the reef has been lost since 1985 due to pollution, shipping and the crown-of-thorns starfish. It is clear that without swift and decisive action, the reef could be destroyed in our lifetime. Workshop & Welcome reception The event kicked off with a workshop on Risk Management and the Drinking Water Quality Guidelines, run by former AWA NSW Branch President Murray Thompson. Murray is a great asset to Australia’s water industry and it was fantastic for him to share his extensive knowledge with other water professionals. A special thanks to Cheryl Marvell (Founder, National Operations Network) and Richard Scott (Co-Chair, National Operations Network), who also provided their expertise. At the conclusion of the training session, a welcome reception was held at the magnificent Cairns Convention Centre, a great networking opportunity sponsored by Thales Australia. Drinks were required to cool down after an enjoyable day in the tropics and helped those with nimble fingers muster the courage to tackle the ‘Operators Challenge’ – brainchild of Richard Scott who devised the challenge in his Adelaide garage. With the help of his son, Richard perfected the apparatus that involved the assembly of flanges to secure a pipe and two elbows. A gold coin entrance fee was required for teams of two to participate and record a time, with all money being donated to WaterAid. Thank you to Konnect for sponsoring the challenge. Day one The conference was opened by the Mayor of Cairns, Mr Bob Manning OAM. Bob spoke about his time growing up in Far North Queensland and reminded us how special this part of the country is. He also spoke about the increasing levels of development in the region, predominantly led by the mining and tourism sectors. While these industries bring prosperity to the region, they also place enormous pressures on the environment and local infrastructure, including water and wastewater services. Bob spoke about the importance of tourism to the local economy and the need to balance industrial development to ensure that the region continues to be a major tourist destination for Australian and international visitors. Protection of the environment is central to this outcome. We were honoured to welcome our first keynote speaker, Dr Glen Daigger of CH2M Hill in the US. Dr Daigger is also the President of the International Water Association, and his presentation focused on the core mission of all water industry professionals – to protect public health and the environment through the provision of safe drinking water and reliable wastewater treatment services. Glen reminded us of the important role that engineers and operators play, and the responsibility that we have to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead; whether that be water security, economic pressures or climate change. He also spoke of the great opportunities on the horizon, with changes in technology and process options that are likely to revolutionise the water industry over the next 20 to 50 years. As water professionals, we embrace these changes and provide strong leadership to ensure that sound investments are made in water infrastructure. Following Glen was a fantastic presentation from our second keynote speaker, Professor Stuart Bunn, Director of the Australian River Institute at Griffith University in Brisbane. Stuart shared some of his extensive knowledge on the ecology of rivers and wetland systems, and how the water industry has changed the natural landscape through the clearing of riparian vegetation and the channelising of rivers with the intention of addressing flooding problems in some catchment areas. Fortunately, through the work undertaken by Stuart and his team, engineering decisions of the past are gradually being overturned through the introduction of water-sensitive urban design and the naturalisation of rivers where flows are attenuated and nutrient assimilation is promoted. Stuart highlighted some of the dramatic gains that were achieved in the Brisbane area by river modelling and management that has reduced the impact of nutrients from sewage treatment plant discharges and improved water quality in Moreton Bay. After these two inspiring keynote presentations, the rest of Day One was filled with fascinating talks on innovative ways to improve operational efficiencies, techniques to monitor and reduce the impacts of water/wastewater operations and important lessons from events where operations didn’t quite go as planned. Dinner that night was kindly sponsored by Aurecon and was held outside the convention centre to take advantage of the tropical weather and cooling sea breezes. The local entertainment was fantastic and the night offered great networking opportunities. The Operators Challenge also provided great entertainment, with some seriously fast times being recorded towards the end of the evening when competitors were loosened up and the judging panel were also becoming more relaxed with quality control surrounding the assembly of the pipework. 36 Conference report Keynote speaker, Professor Stuart Bunn.
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