Getting to know our Members
Meet some of our IWA Australian members and find out what they're passionate about, how they get involved in the IWA's activities and what they believe are some of the current water challenges we're facing.
Diana Gonzalez Botero
WASH specialist, International WaterCentre
IWAA committee member
Growing up in Colombia I understood the value and importance of access to water and how poverty impacts people’s ability to access it. This sparked an interest in water and inequality from a very young age, which led me to study environmental science and then water security and international development. To me, water perfectly captures the intersection between environment and people. It's a resource that sustains life in every way and shapes very complex dynamics – that’s why I’m so passionate about water.
I have been living in Australia for three years and currently work at the International WaterCentre as a Project Officer, focusing mainly in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) capacity development and applied research projects. Most of my projects are based in the Pacific, mainly Melanesia and I just love the work that I do!
My focus is applied water and WASH research and development in communities and schools. I work with CSOs (Civil Society Organisations) to help implement projects, with universities to conduct research projects, and with stakeholders (government and others) to ensure that our work is relevant to them. Some of my current projects include a handwashing research project in primary schools in Papua New Guinea and a rural water management research project in Fiji and Solomon Islands. My work involves a lot of in-country support and capacity building, as well as data collection and analysis. Some days are hard, as we face so many challenges in this field, but it is very rewarding work.
The first time I got involved was in Brisbane at the World Water Congress in 2016 when I received a YWP scholarship to be a congress rapporteur for the SDGs. This was a fantastic opportunity to not only attend but also engage and participate in the congress in a very proactive way. Through this experience I connected with some key people that kept me engaged and I started to understand what IWA was all about.
Being at the World Water Congress not just as a delegate but as a participant helped me really see the value of the Association. I was blown away by the congress: seeing that it covered so many diverse and key aspects of water meaning that everyone had a place in the congress, the extensive network of experts, and mainly seeing that young people also had a place and were encouraged to actively participate. I saw that IWA gives opportunities to people, especially young people, who can sometimes be overlooked.
Currently I am a YWP (young water professional) representative on the IWA Australia committee. I am part of the communications subcommittee where our main objective is to communicate with our IWA members in Australia and engage with them further. I am also supporting the setting up of an emerging water leaders scholarship for Australian YWPs to attend events like I did. I am also exploring how to build the international link between Australian and global YWPs.
I’m inspired to continue to be involved when I see my fellow YWPs’ drive and determination to achieve things and accomplish what we are here for. Also seeing the support and opportunities that IWA provides for us to do so and feeling that my efforts are valued. And finally, knowing that I have access to a network of such amazing and ambitious people also keeps me motivated.
Benefits of Australia engaging with the International Water Sector
The main benefits for Australia are the opportunities for partnerships, collaboration and knowledge sharing, all of which works both ways. At IWC we have seen it so many times when we have delegations come from around the world to learn about Australia’s approach to water management, but it is always an exchange and we gain a lot from sharing with and learning from these delegations.
The international community has also put pressure on us to step up in terms of the SDGs and what needs to be prioritised, including supporting our neighbours in the region. It puts Australia in the spotlight and forces us to be present and support efforts in our neighbouring countries.
Future international water challenges
Climate change is an obvious one, especially for Pacific island countries. We are a part of this international community and our immediate neighbours around us are facing serious problems. Resource management is another, when we have so many competing priorities, stressors or tensions and water users.
Being part of an international community is extremely beneficial as you have access to networks, experts, knowledge and exposure to different examples of how challenges are being tackled across the globe. It also provides the opportunity to partner with people who are facing similar challenges and combine our efforts. A great example of this is the SDGs. We are so close to the deadline and there is a lot yet to do, but we are also seeing great initiatives from the international community and IWA that we can learn from, and that can motivate Australia to continue taking a leadership role.
Professor Zhiguo Yuan AM
Director, Advanced Water Management Centre
The University of Queensland
IWA Distinguished Fellow
When you ask Professor Zhiguo Yuan AM to tell you about his work he might say that he has a “day job” and a “night shift”; such is the plight of someone with many interests and varied contribution to the water sector. In his day job, Prof Yuan is the Director of the Advanced Water Management Centre at The University of Queensland. This research centre covers almost every area of water and wastewater management and at any given point in time employs around 100-120 academics and PhD candidates. In his own research, Prof Yuan’s biggest research program is a $20M program on sewer corrosion, which has seen hundreds of millions of dollars of savings in corrosion and odour management. His research also covers other innovative solutions for the water industry. For example, technologies focusing on next generation wastewater treatment, resource recovery and integrated urban water management. Through the ARC Australian Laureate Fellowship, which Prof Yuan was awarded in 2017, he will have funding for 5 years to investigate high value products from biogas.
While this kind of day job is enough to keep most people occupied, Prof Yuan says “I’ve reached the stage in my career that I need to give back to the community” and this passion drives him to extend his contribution to the water sector. In his “night shift”, Prof Yuan is an Editor for the Water Research journal, a Distinguished Fellow with the International Water Association and the President of the Federation of Chinese Scholars in Australia. It is not surprising then, that in January of this year he was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia.
Prof Yuan originally trained as an aeronautical engineer with a PhD in China, then moved to Belgium in 1994 for a post-doctoral position. While in Belgium Prof Yuan picked up the IWA Activated Sludge Model-1 textbook and starting reading. It is a good thing that he has a passion for modelling as this experience was a turning point in moving into working in the water sector and engaging with the IWA.
Initially, the IWA was a good platform to meet with experts in the field and grow his academic career and networks. In 2000, Prof Yuan was elected to the management committee of the IWA Specialist Group on Modelling and Integrated Assessment and then in 2001 to the committee of the IWA Specialist Group on Instrumentation Control and Automation (ICA). He continued serving on the ICA committee and in 2005 was Chair and in 2009 he Chaired the IWA Conference on ICA in Cairns. He has since Chaired many IWA conferences including the 2011 Sewer Processes and Networks Conference, the 2015 Watermatex Conference, the 2018 Nutrient Removal and Recovery Conference and is set to Chair the 2021 ICA Conference in Beijing. Currently, Prof Yuan also contributes to the IWA as a Member of the IWA Strategic Council, a Distinguished Fellow and in supporting the program development for digital water solutions.
When Prof Yuan reflects on his involvement in the IWA from the 90s in Belgium to now in Australia, he recognises the significant platform that the IWA has always provided to grow his networks and to learn from people in the sector. In more recent years his efforts have shifted more to helping the development of young professionals. As he says, “I benefited from my seniors and now I’m trying to mentor the younger generation”.
Benefits of Australia engaging with the International Water Sector
Prof Yuan has experienced first-hand the benefits of international collaboration. For many years he has worked to promote collaboration and communication between Australia and China, through his work with the Federation of Chinese Scholars in Australia and through supporting IWA activities in China. In general, Prof Yuan sees mutual benefit in Australia engaging with the International Water Sector. Australia is widely seen as an international leader in water management, shown by the respect of Australian water professionals and Australian involvement in international events as keynote speakers and in other capacities. While Australia has a lot of expertise to share, Prof Yuan stresses the mutual benefits that come from such engagement such as sharing and learning about drought management with other countries. He sees, and has experienced, the IWA as a platform for exchange and collaboration to improve water solutions around the globe.
Future international water challenges
While acknowledging that the challenges are many, Prof Yuan highlights four issues. First and second, water security and sanitation to under-developed countries. He is a passionate educator and mentor and suggests that Australia has a lot to offer in providing good quality education and training to under-developed countries who might not have widespread capacity in these areas. He also highlights sustainability as a big challenge for the water sector. Some of the elements that Prof Yuan sees as important elements of addressing this challenge are to improve resource recovery and Integrated Urban Water Management. Lastly, a trend and need that is increasing is digital water. IWA is responding to this with the formation of a digital water program to bring expertise from different sectors. He notes that this is one example of how the IWA can uniquely help respond to big challenges in the water sector by rapidly developing groups of people from different parts of the world to work together on solving emerging issues.
We would also like to congratulate IWA Australia members who have been recognised by IWA for their contribution to the water sector:
• Tony Wong, CRC for Water Sensitive Cities: 2018 IWA Global Water Award
• Darryl Day, ICE WaRM: 2018 IWA Distinguished Fellowship
• Professor Zhiguo Yuan, Advanced Water Management Centre, 2018 IWA Distinguished Fellowship
• Dr Eva Abal, International River Foundation, 2018 IWA Fellowship
• Professor Huu Hao Ngo, University of Technology, 2018 IWA Fellowship