Water Journal : Water Journal August 2013
42 Ozwater Report YOUNG WATER PROFESSIONALS WORKSHOP After years of drought across the country the water industry's focus on big water projects to supply capital cities came to an end with rains on the east coast. While water supplies are secure in most of Australia's major cities, the case is not the same for regional and remote towns. In many cases remote and regional towns exist for agriculture or to support the extraction of a resource deposit located close to their town. In these situations the needs of the people and the environment have the potential to be forgotten in favour of the needs of big industry. As young professionals mostly working in an urban water environment we can often take our access to water for granted, even after years of stretched water supplies. Our colleagues working overseas in third-world or war-torn countries often have added challenges that we don't even think about. These thoughts were the topics of discussion at the recent Ozwater'13 Young Water Professionals (YWP) workshop held in Perth. The workshop heard from three speakers: Doug Brown (hydrogeologist); Peter McAllister (Regional Manager North West Region, Water Corporation); and Danielle Brunton (Mechanical Engineer, PDC). Each of them shared their experiences of working in remote areas and the challenges they faced. The experiences detailed by both Doug and Peter emphasised the need for organisations such as mining companies, utilities, community and environmental groups to work together to achieve the best outcome for both the local community and the environment. Danielle's experiences working in refugee camps reminded the attendees that sometimes even the basics are hard to get and are precious. A hypothetical unconventional gas proposal was given to the attendees to assess, as they represented different sectors of the local community. As expected, the environmental group was strongly opposed to the proposal and could not be convinced otherwise. The local community group were divided in their views and wanted to know either what was in it for them or how their already established businesses were going to be affected. Utilities and the local approving authorities were understandably non-committal in their views and wanted to see all sides of the story before voicing their opinions. All the groups got to provide their views at a town hall meeting before the exploration company had right of reply. Interestingly they had done their homework and provided good feedback and considered responses to how they were going to deal with the negative aspects of their proposal. In the end, when it came to a vote for or against the proposal the vote was no, but the margin was much closer than the participants may have originally thought. The thoughts and ideas that came from the group showed that as long as resource companies do their homework and fully understand the risks of a proposal they have a much greater chance of gaining community acceptance. The water industry has made great leaps and bounds in working together with industry to get what is best for local water supplies. However, there is still a long way to go and it is only by cooperation and collaboration that we are going to protect water supplies in our most vulnerable areas. Kusum Athuokorala's address to the YWP Breakfast also emphasised this need for cooperation and the need for Australia to offer our skills and expertise to assist other regions. The AWA YWP network can assist in providing knowledge and resources to edgling YWP networks in other countries. Getting young people excited about our precious resource is always the rst step to ensuring it is protected and appreciated.
Water Journal June 2013
Water Journal September 2013