Water Journal : Water Journal November 2012-1
4 NOVEMBER 2012 water from the president regular features Creating a Planet-Responsible Civilisation Lucia Cade – AWA President “Creating A Planet-Responsible Civilisation”.... What a vision statement for a nation... and, indeed, a world! In a keynote address at the recent IWA World Water Congress, Soo-Gil Young, the Korean President of the Committee on Green Growth, shared the visionary aspirations of the President of Korea – the kind of thinking that is guiding the decisions of the Korean government as their country continues its meteoric economic development. Korea’s visionary strategy is echoed in a report entitled “Resilient People – Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing” from the United Nations high-level panel on global sustainability this year. It was a lead-in document to the Rio Earth Summit held in June to discuss ideas, development and progress on Sustainable Development Goals. While I was in Singapore I attended an interview with Helen Clark, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, who spoke at the Rio Earth Summit in her capacity as the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and Chair of the United Nations Development Group. She passionately advocated the need to include local communities in the sustainable development process – emphasising that we can’t separate “green” from “inclusive” and that great equality and equity go hand-in-hand with sustainability. We are slowly getting there with this concept in Australia, but I think overall we have some way to go in how we include our customers and communities in the solution finding, options and trade-offs, as well as the affordability debate. For 25 years the UN has been talking about sustainable development goals and the idea of balancing economic prosperity with social equity and environmental protection. Many developing countries have been progressing the first of these ahead of the second two. This is not a tenable approach in the future according to Jaehyang So from the World Bank, who also delivered an insightful keynote address at the IWA World Water Congress. She proposes that the world cannot afford to leave people and the environment behind in the pursuit of economic progress, as too much damage can be wrought in the intervening timeframe. Economic progress, social equity and environmental protection must progress conjointly. In fact, a key solution to this dilemma is in collaboration and partnerships – particularly between the private and public sectors and particularly when both are strong. I paraphrase Jaehyang So in putting to you that it is only when a well-performing, innovative and incentivised private sector is joined with an effective and talented public sector that the greatest overall outcomes can be achieved. This is the way to bring the best of all worlds to developing solutions for the most intractable of problems. In this sense, we are lucky in Australia to have both. There is currently a lot of discussion about building resilience – particularly in terms of the resilience of our assets and approaches to disaster management in the face of a seemingly increasing frequency of extreme events – from drought to flood to fire to cyclone. Significant reviews are underway across the country of how we design and manage our systems, and of our preparedness for maintaining service delivery and protecting assets through extreme events and their aftermath. Recently I attended the TasWater Conference in Hobart, ‘Water in the Bush’ in Darwin and the National Operations Specialist Conference, also in Darwin. At each event there were great presentations from the service front of the industry, from the people who deal with the customers and deliver their services. There is an enormous amount of experience, knowledge and dedication in our industry. The stories of people delivering services in the field in some interesting circumstances would fill many entertaining books. At each of these events I spoke of the challenges we will face in the coming decade. I spoke of the changes in technology: energy-neutral treatment processes; nutrient recovery and recycling; waste to energy; intelligent assets; and the challenge of turning data into information. I discussed the skills we will need and the changes in the way we work. I also spoke of global trends in population growth, urbanisation and the need for better food chains. And I spoke of the shrinking world and how technology shortens the time for information to travel, the immediacy of people accessing information, the “ready-experts”, and the ongoing attention water services receive from the public. While public interest has always been apparent (read any history of the water sector), the availability and speed of information dissemination and where people go for expert views has changed. As this year of reflection on AWA turning 50 draws to a close, the water industry remains a fascinating one in which to build a career – one that has the greatest potential to deliver on great visions like creating a planet-resilient civilisation.
Water Journal December 2012
Water Journal September 2012-1