Water Journal : Water Journal August 2011
10 AUGUST 2011 water regular features my point of view Rob has worked in catchment management since he joined the water industry after completing his PhD in 2001, and is passionate about protecting Melbourne's open catchments from inappropriate development. I understand that the Australian water sector is facing a significant squeeze over the coming decades, with serious climatic uncertainty and pressures on water prices. There is a risk that as we aim to do more with less, we may lose sight of the forest for the trees. Land use activities and development on land within open, potable water supply catchments has the potential to contaminate drinking water supplies. Catchment management is the active involvement in policy-making, planning, management and use of public and private land to protect and improve the quality and quantity of water in waterways and water bodies. I believe that catchment management is not only an obligation, but an opportunity for innovation for intelligent water corporations over the coming decades. Risk Assessment In most states water suppliers are required by legislation, and are certainly under a legal duty, to understand and manage risks to the quality of the water they supply. Influencing legal, policy, strategy and land management settings in water supply catchments enables water suppliers to understand the risks to drinking water quality that exist in water catchment areas. In most states, catchment management stakeholders, such as catchment management authorities (CMAs) and Landcare Groups, must measure the benefit of land management projects on the environment -- and in doing so they capture valuable information about the 'state of the environment'. In addition, the on-ground knowledge of CMAs, Landcare co-ordinators and extension officers can highlight existing problem areas, with the potential to lessen the reliance on extensive water quality monitoring programs. By tapping into existing knowledge, the water utility can avoid having to go and get the knowledge itself. Best Practice A guiding principle of the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines is to protect source water to the maximum degree practicable. This duty will likely be applied to your water corporation if: you have foreseen there is a risk due to your water catchments; you have failed to reasonably protect your source water to the maximum degree practical; and a waterborne disease occurs as a result of your failure. Understanding catchment management arrangements allows you to demonstrate the extent of source water protection in your catchments and to demonstrate that you have understood reasonably foreseeable risks and (together with stakeholders) implemented a reasonable response to the risks. Innovation = Capital Savings Managing catchments provides water corporations with options beyond water treatment to manage risks to drinking water quality. For example, by funding the Neerim and District Landcare Group to carry out works to undertake nutrient management to the tune of $300k pa, Melbourne Water has avoided around $20 million in capital savings associated with the new Tarago Water Treatment Plant. Synergies and Efficiencies I believe that being an active catchment manager allows water corporations to identify synergies and efficiencies with other environmental managers. This may result in substantial savings to the public sector as a whole, through implementation of catchment management programs that benefit both the environmental value of streams and habitats, and reduce key contaminants of concern for water corporations. Corporate Social Responsibility Finally, it is incumbent on all water corporations to play their part in their communities. Corporate social responsibility compels water corporations to take a leadership role in projects that (a) benefit the community; and (b) benefit the environment. Five Reasons for Catchment Management Robert Considine, Manager, Strategy and Improvement, Network and Drinking Water Quality at Melbourne Water Tarago Reservoir in Victoria.
Water Journal September 2011
Water Journal July 2011