Policy, management and tech: What’s needed to solve our water security issues?

Posted 26 October 2017

Australians live in a range of places, from remote and rural areas to large city centres. Building resilience across these varying regions is important, and that includes water security and access to sanitation services. 

However, climate change and the rise of extreme weather events are upping the ante for the water industry. With that in mind, the Australian Water Association Queensland Young Water Professionals have set a challenge for attendees to the upcoming QWater Conference. During a Water Hackathon, teams and individuals will be asked to come up with a solution to the following problem: 

You and your team have been selected on a committee to form a 50-year action plan to ensure water security in your region – specifically in times of extreme conditions, including droughts and flooding rains. Given the frequency and impact of such events in your region, what key policies, management or cost-effective technology will you recommend?

Organiser Amira Haruwarta said this challenge fits with the conference’s theme of Regional Resilience, as it’s designed to attract solutions from a variety of locations, organisations and levels of expertise. 

“We wanted to create a problem that the industry is going to face in the coming years, which is about regional resilience and how we can integrate our systems better to maintain our quality of life,” said Haruwarta, a graduate process engineer with Unitywater.

“The Water Hackathon is a way to cast a broader net and get people outside traditional ‘water industry roles’, or those who normally might not cross professional paths, to contribute and collaborate.”

Entries are judged according to three criteria: feasibility of the proposed solution; solution impact on the environment, community and economy; and delivery of the idea and creativity. The Hackathon is designed to encourage unconventional thinking, said Haruwarta, as it’s something that doesn’t always happen in Australia.

“A lot of infrastructure in Australia tends to just copy what the norm is without really considering the impacts to the community at large or in the long term,” she said.  

“The Hackathon is a way for people to contribute ideas that might not have another outlet to be shared, or for disruptive ideas that run counter to what’s traditionally done. It’s also a space for young water professionals to put forth their ideas.”

Teams or individuals who make it to the final round will present their ideas at the QWater Conference Shark Tank-style in front of a panel of expert judges. Haruwarta said she feels hackathons like this allow for more creative contributions to issues of water security, and encourage input from a cross section of industry professionals.

“Because we’re talking about regional resilience, solutions need to be tailored because every region will be different and integrative water management needs to fit the setting,” she said. 

“That might depend on the social context, the economic context, the long- and short-term goals … It gets people thinking outside the box for solutions that might not necessarily have been thought about or implemented before.” 

To learn more about the inaugural QWater Hackathon, see the full event program or to register for the conference, click here