WA Conference: WAter – A State of Extremes

Friday, 6 April 2018

Conference SpeakersThe Australian Water Association WA Branch kicked off the 2018 WA Conference, WAter – A State of Extremes overlooking the Indian Ocean, at the Aquarium of Western Australia (AWQA) on Friday 6 April 2018. 

WA Branch President, Deanne McDonald opened the conference with an acknowledgement to country. Our first keynote speaker of the day, Dan Nelson, (Coordinator of Project Delivery City of Kalamunda) and winner of the 2017 Innovating for Sustainability Award for the City of Kalamunda’s Hartfield Park managed aquifer recharge facility shared a story common to many who are passionate about water saving solutions - learning about water management on the family farm. The lessons being: use multiple water sources fit for purpose, have a champion, make the effort to improve water efficiency and ultimately, to value the water.

Before the conference, delegates had the opportunity to enjoy a tour of the Aquarium of Western Australia (AQWA) - our guide ran through management of water at the facility. It is one of few aquariums that can source water directly from the ocean. One of the most impressive aspects of AQWAs water management is that it has to manage the water quality and temperature on a tank by tank basis.

The morning technical session began with Katherine Taylor (Australian National University) who outlined how the framework being developed to account for indigenous water rights within the current NT groundwater allocation process may also be applicable to WA. Though this only addresses economic objectives in that indigenous groups will have access to a groundwater allocation across land under native title to use for commercial purposes or to lease etc. Next to no conversation around this topic has occurred in WA and would be required before anything is put into policy.

Tim Sparks and Agni Bhandari (Department of Water and Environmental Regulation) spoke about the Metronet project, which both the WA Minister for Water and WA Minister for Environment aim to be a showcase project for water sensitive urban design and sustainability. To help guide the Metronet project team succeed in these areas, the Department is focusing on urban water and sustainability design requirements for the stations and urban precincts surrounding them. 

Nick Turner (Water Corporation) summarised recent findings from Water Corporation's community engagement initiative, Tap In. Nick advised the community supports water recycling in many forms, but does not wish to be charged more for it. The future gap in water use across WA is actually non-potable water uses and most significantly, for irrigation. The questions then become ‘will the community change their open space expectation away from the English based parklands or will there come a time when the community decides that it's valuable enough to either irrigate with scheme water (some of which is recycled) or expend significant money into decentralised systems’.

Fiona Mullen (University of Auckland) walked us through her initial fracture stability assessment of a gas target within the North Perth basin. 

The afternoon technical session commenced with Kate Duzevich (Harvey Water) describing the monitoring and on-farm initiatives (e.g. using telemetry, piped distribution systems, and moisture sensors) being implemented across the beef and dairy pasture cooperative to conserve water in the northern dams. Kate also described the benefits of the Myalup-Wellington proposal to the cooperative and others in the region. This proposes to divert water from the Collie River into a mine void, and then to a desalination plant run by the Collie Power Station with the treated water being directed into Harris Dam. 

John Hunt (Murdoch Uni / Water Audits) spoke about the inclusion of schools in the Water Corporation's water efficiency management plan program, success in using water audits to reduce their water use (and costs), and his ultimate findings that approximately  a quarter of the schools used 46% of the total used by all the schools  and therefore have the capacity to make great water savings. John has proposed that schools aim to meet a benchmark of 6.4 kL/person/day.

Michael Ioannidis (JDA Consulting Hydrologists) described the major changes between Engineers Australia’s 1987 and 2016 Australian Rainfall & Runoff guidelines, predominantly being the change in terminology and increased rainfall data. Michael's analysis indicates that design rainfalls around Busselton, Margaret River and inland WA has increased, while design rainfalls along the coastal areas of WA have decreased, compared to the data available previously.

Zaw Oo (Water Corporation) highlighted the importance of stakeholder and community engagement to ensure successful completion of the Newman town water supply upgrade project. Zaw discussed some of the on-ground challenges (such as finding underground power in the same trench) that became apparent once on ground works began. The community was kept informed through regular updates on the town's facebook group and a town wide BBQ was provided once all the taps were back on.

An interactive workshop tying in many of the themes of the day (water efficiency, reducing groundwater availability and water recycling) was run by Jason Jetten (Permeate Partners). It was a welcome way to begin networking and followed by networking drinks at The Harbour Terrace. 

Thank you to our event program partners, ANZ, Department of Water and Environmental Regulation imagehunters Films, Water Corporation and AQWA. A very big thank you goes out to our Conference Organising Committee who made it all possible - Georgia Mansfield (Chair), Aisha Chalmers, Rhys Carter, Don Kuai, Ashwin Nayak, Jiaqui Xu and Kyllie Whitehead. Thank you also to Anne-Elise Charles and Rachel Evans for assisting on the day. 

Conference Photos

View all the photos here: