Water Journal : Water Journal July 2012
36 JULY 2012 water feature articles Eight keynotes, nine streams, more than 150 papers, 70 posters, 14 workshops, a full trade exhibition, a new smartphone application and a plethora of meetings, connections and celebrations are just some of the activities that occurred over the three days of Ozwater'12. It's no wonder delegates, exhibitors, presenters, volunteers and staff were all exhausted by the end of the program! A summary of highlights is presented here as a reminder to those who were there, and as an overview for those unable to attend. Day 1 -- Opening and Keynotes The Opening Ceremony engaged the audience with a dynamic dance, illusion and magic routine, the prelude to the opening address by Peter Robinson, past AWA President and MC for the day. Peter welcomed delegates to Ozwater'12 in AWA's 50th Anniversary and invited Russell Dawson to give a traditional -- and not-so-traditional -- Welcome to Country. David Barnes, Chair of the Ozwater'12 Committee, reflected on the great changes in the water industry in the past 50 years and outlined some of the major developments in technology, science and engineering, our understanding of water-related issues, and the expectations of the community. He challenged the audience to imagine what the future will hold for the water sector in a further 50 years' time. AWA's CEO Tom Mollenkopf acknowledged some of the challenges the industry had faced in the previous 12 months, including floods, rising water prices and structural reforms. He stressed the need for good science and the importance of generating value, and reminded attendees of AWA's desire to work with individuals and organisations on collaborative partnerships that contribute to our water future. Significant this year was the celebration of AWA's 50th anniversary and recognition of all that the organisation has achieved. Lucia Cade, AWA President, outlined the first meeting in 1961 and the first National Conference in Canberra in 1964 (with 64 delegates), the first issue of Water Journal (published as a bridge between theory and practice in 1974) and the first foray into training and professional development, also in the early '70s. She acknowledged the key leadership of AWA CEOs, Chris Davis and Tom Mollenkopf, and the never- ending enthusiasm and dedication of AWA's volunteers. Lucia also paid tribute to AWA's former Technical Editor Bob Swinton, who passed away in April. Bob had been an AWA member since 1964 and had been involved with the Journal since 1974. Lucia praised Bob's ability to listen to a mass of information and distill it into something concise and meaningful. The first keynote presenter was Kevin Young, Managing Director of Sydney Water, with a presentation titled 'Looking Back -- Thinking Forward'. Kevin outlined the historical trend in the water sector of focusing on engineering projects and engineering skills, and highlighted some innovative steps taken by a previous MD at Hunter Water, Dr John Paterson, whom he called 'a revolutionary leader'. Dr Paterson challenged the status quo and approached the running of Hunter Water with fresh eyes. He travelled to the US for best-practice examples and called for new talent in a full-page advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald, using language such as: 'New talent wanted! It's time for change, come and join me, we can do fantastic things!' Dr Paterson highlighted the role of women in the workforce and, among other achievements, introduced a user-pays system (overcoming both community and employee concerns), achieving a 30 per cent drop in water use in 1992. However, the main theme of Kevin's presentation was about driving value for customers, with a projection ahead of embarking on what may seem simple but is incredibly difficult -- an era of 'value to customers' and 'value water solutions' that will require a very real paradigm shift for the water industry. He outlined some of the challenges of social media and encouraged the water sector to improve on their listening and engagement skills using a variety of methods. Finally, he outlined the opportunity the water sector has to work with the community on affordable water solutions to ensure our future liveable cities. Hugh Mackay, Social Researcher, highlighted some of the broader social scenarios that have developed in Australia over the last few decades, including falling rates of marriage, higher rates of divorce, the increase in the average age of mothers and the falling birth rate to below replacement rate. More pertinent to the water sector is the phenomenon of the shrinking household, with the fastest-growing demographic being the single person household and the expectation that by 2026 a third of all Australian homes will house just one person. Hugh also reflected on the social climate since the late '90s, suggesting that many big-picture scenarios such as climate change and the global economy brought about a sense of powerlessness and caused disengagement and a shifting of focus to inward, more-localised agendas that could be controlled. We obsessed about renovations, our backyards and cosmetic surgery, and racked up record levels of personal and household debt. News and current affairs programs lost ratings and dropped out of the top 10 television shows. Our consumption of tranquillisers and anti-depressants tripled in early 2000. Then, in about 2006--2007, the tide turned. There was a sense of fresh hope, of collective action and a high sense of expectation. But quickly, it sank again into another trough, bringing about the current feelings of uncertainty, disengagement and more conservative thinking. So what does all this mean for the water sector? Hugh advocated that in turbulent times communities need leadership and inspiration, especially from the natural resources sector. However, he warned that given the contemporary mood people are very cynical and there is a need for transparency, clarity, honesty, easy-to-understand information, and a shared understanding of where we're going and why we need to go there. Report by Clare Porter, Diane Wiesner and Frank Bishop Ozwater'12: 'Sharing Knowledge, Planning the Future' Ozwater'12 Special Report Kevin Young, Sydney Water.
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