Water Journal : Water Journal December 2011
awa news regular features 28 DECEMBER 2011 water A Samoan Experience Earlier this year Fiona MacKenzie, Project Manager -- Skills, AWA was selected as a recipient for the Endeavour Executive Award, an Australian Government merit-based scholarship program that provides opportunities for Australians to undertake study, research and professional development abroad. Fiona was thrilled to take up a placement based in Apia, Samoa, with the Pacific Water Association (PWWA) from June--September 2011. The PWWA is a regional not-for-profit membership body established in 1995 to support the Pacific region in meeting water challenges. Pacific island utilities are the primary member group serviced by a voluntary Secretariat in Apia. The Association plays a vital and unique role for the Pacific water sector; however, due to lack of funds and resources it is in a precarious position. PWWA and Fiona identified a list of projects that would improve the Association's capacity and membership services. Activities during her placement included the development of a contact database, website content and an annual report, streamlining processes and also coordinating, facilitating and presenting at the PWWA Pacific Water Conference. However, the two biggest accomplishments were the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between AWA and PWWA and the PWWA Review and Recommendation Report. Peter Robinson, AWA's immediate Past President, signed the Agreement at the Pacific Water Conference in September, which formalised the relationship between the two Associations. The MoU aims to foster communication and collaboration by sharing news, training and event opportunities, forging business relations and twinning partnerships between members, and the provision of crisis support between Australia and Oceania. The most influential initiative for PWWA was a Recommendations Report, which provided an analysis of financial and membership figures and Association documents and processes, and concluded with an Action Plan. The Executive Board commended and approved all the growth-focused suggestions and the Secretariat will implement these changes immediately. This will have a positive and ongoing impact on the Association. Fiona found the opportunity to work with the Pacific water community an enlightening, humbling and rewarding experience. The circumstances and challenges of water in the Pacific -- such as Tuvalu's water shortage crisis and the impact of sea level rises on the disappearing Kiribati islands -- are both broad and critical. During her time in Samoa, Fiona developed good working relationships with the Secretariat and the Pacific island utilities and also enjoyed the "fa'a Samoa", which means the 'Samoan way of life'. Does Science Really Matter? AWA's Environmental Water Management Specialist Network hosted a workshop at the 14th International Riversymposium, held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre in September (see page 54 for a review of Riversymposium). The theme of the session was the deliberately provocative: 'Does Science Really Matter in Environmental Water Management?', which aimed to explore the challenge of integrating science and research in on-the-ground decision-making in environmental water management. Panelists representing scientists, managers and community members provided brief stimulus presentations offering case studies of successful (and perhaps not so successful) dialogues between science and decision-making in environmental water management. The panel included: • Paula D'Santos -- Senior Wetlands & Rivers Conservation Officer, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH); • Paul Harding -- Consulting Hydrologist, Qld Dept of Environment and Resource Management (DERM); • Judy Frankenburg -- a farmer at Howlong, near Albury, NSW, and Plant Ecologist; and • Dr Joanne Ling -- Rivers and Wetlands Unit Co-ordinator, NSW Office of Environment & Heritage. The session attracted around 50 delegates and the presentations sparked some passionate and interesting discussions. The session was ably chaired by Greg Raisin, MDBA (formerly with NWC), and the debate stirred with the help of facilitator Dr Deb Nias, CEO of Murray Darling Wetlands. The key points that came out of the session included: • The best-laid plans can, and will, be undone by legislation. The rules are not always enabling and there is a need for flexibility in policy. • Communication and management of expectations are essential. The tools and products developed by scientists need to be developed with clear understanding of the manager or community expectations; co-development is important. • There needs to be more emphasis on the importance of pre- investigations before acting. Observation and early enquiries can improve the situation and lead to greater outcomes. • Lack of monitoring, or of any data in some places, makes justifying decisions difficult to community, policy and even self. • The pressure to be efficient with water use can work against what the science is telling us. For example, the need for over- bank flows for ecosystem function is not compatible with efficiency measures. • The role of uncertainty and the need to explain this. Look to trends rather than absolute numbers. We must encourage learning by doing, and be allowed to make mistakes. Adaptive management principles must be applied. • The need to understand more than the biology or hydrology. Social, psychological, economic and political sciences are perhaps more important in some decision making. The science is broader than the biological-based sciences. • The science behind the basin plan needs explaining to the managers too. How can managers support the plan when they don't understand how the data was derived and why there are different volumes? Fiona (far left) with colleagues from the Pacific Water Association.
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