Water Journal : Water Journal July 2012
water JULY 2012 37 Day 2 -- Keynotes The Plenary Session on Wednesday 9 May featured two international keynotes -- Herbert Dreiseitl from Germany and Xavier LeFlaive from the OECD, based in France. The proceedings were opened by James Cameron, CEO of the National Water Commission (NWC), who provided an overview of the Commission's role and its goals and priorities. A number of the NWC's initiatives have provided the basis for improved science and policy, particularly in areas such as water trading, groundwater management, urban water reform, recycled water, stormwater harvesting and managed aquifer recharge. Subsequent speakers paid tribute to the Australian water science and policy leadership that the Commission has fostered. In an uplifting presentation, Herbert Dreiseitl provided a picture tour of Ecological Waterscapes, using examples of what has been achieved in cities in Europe and is being followed elsewhere, including in China and Singapore. The lesson he sought to instill was that it is possible to design and engineer cities where intelligent water use is planned so that it achieves social as well as environmental benefits. He pointed out that such dynamic integration of water systems involving stormwater harvesting, filtration and treatment, while at the same time creating a pleasant social environment, should be an integral and integrated part of future urban planning. His key message: infrastructure doesn't have to be ugly -- it can incorporate aesthetics, the environment and the biosphere. Xavier LeFlaive provided an insight into the OECD's 'Water Outlook to 2050'. He began by encapsulating the OECD's approach to water, which it sees as a major driver for economic growth. The key issues identified for concern are water pricing, allocation across communities, governance and water quality (including pollution). His talk drew from the recent OECD report (available at the OECD website), where the focus was on describing the baseline scenario for global water resources -- that is, a situation where the current supply, accessibility and stresses remained the same in 2050, a situation the OECD considers undesirable. Its aim is to trigger a policy response that is geared to avoiding the baseline future with a focus on four main areas: impacts of climate change, biodiversity issues, water and the environment, and health. The water chapter covers demand issues, water stress, supply depletion, qualitative issues such as pollution of rivers and lakes, and access to water. It predicts a 55 per cent increase in demand by 2050 and points to India and Africa as particular trouble spots. These countries, together with China, are also likely to be most at risk from chemical runoff from agriculture, increased nitrification and eutrophication of waterways. Yet the OECD considers many of the problems will be site-specific, which will provide opportunities for adaptation. Building flexibility into planning for potential climate change impacts on water supplies will also be important. Day 3 -- Keynotes Jodieann Dawe, CEO of WQRA, opened this session and introduced the first keynote speaker, Professor Paul Greenfield, Chairman of ANSTO and the International Water Centre. Professor Greenfield's chosen topic was 'The Inherent Challenges to Achieving Sustainability in the Water Sector'. He began by pointing out a common failing among humans to identify problems such as overly heavy rainfall as a 'crisis', provoking an immediate exaggerated but invariably short-term response. The more useful and holistic environmental outcome would have been a slower, more considered and sustained response over time. Looking to Australia's water supply future with a similar stance, Professor Greenfield proceeded to show that future sustainable development requires a long-term commitment to exploring different options for guaranteeing supply; a regime that incorporates wastewater management, treatment and reuse as well as maintaining aquatic ecosystem health. The South-East Queensland Water Grid was cited as an example of sustainable water-use planning, a project undertaken in the context of under-investment in infrastructure over the long term. The SE Water Grid plan involved construction of new dams, new treatment plants, a desalination plant and delivery of substantial water recycling capacity. A side benefit to the Grid plan was a significant reduction in the proportions of nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients discharged from the catchment into Moreton Bay -- an example of an holistic environmental benefit from this approach to infrastructure planning. Resource recovery in the context of achieving sustainability in the water sector was next addressed by Professor Greenfield. He argued that gains from the attempts at recovering resources undertaken with domestic wastewater were low and could be delayed until it became more worthwhile. His suggestions included lower base licensing costs (not economically viable under current arrangements), required economies of scale, and the need for water utilities to recognise their limitations when looking to market products other than water. Finally, Professor Greenfield talked about the need for effective monitoring and reporting systems tied more closely to research and management -- at present, the links are not working. And his concluding comment? That future sustainability goals are getting harder to achieve. The second keynote to speak at this Thursday Plenary was Richard Nagel, General Manager, West Basin Municipal Water District in California. Richard provided a broad sweep of the district for which he is responsible and its approach to planning for water supply. As part of a comprehensive Water Recycling Plan to 2020, and with popular support, effort has been directed towards delivery of recycled water of variable quality to meet the needs of a diverse range of customers, ranging from agriculture to industry to people. Richard claims that water reuse is the way to a sustainable future. Technology has brought the cost of seawater desalination from 30 times the cost of imported water in 1947 to 1.8 times the cost of imported water in 2011. A community poll in his region in the US in 2002 found that 70 per cent favoured saltwater desalination. Richard's vision for 20 years hence is Direct Potable Reuse. Finally, closing off the keynotes, Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency in the US, outlined the good (savings on big infrastructure investments, savings in energy and greenhouse emissions, labelling), the bad (verification unfunded, demand is hardening, drains are blocked with low flows) and the ugly (revenue loss, water rates rise anyway, programs are cut after heavy rains) in water efficiency programs in North America. Ozwater'12 Special Report Xavier LeFlaive, OECD, France.
Water Journal August 2012
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