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Tasmania ready for new ways of thinking

Tasmania’s small size and dispersed population has long created challenges for water utilities in the state but those very qualities make it an ideal proving ground for new systems and technologies, says a senior utility figure.

TasWater Works Delivery General Manager Dr Dharma Dharmabalan – set to present at the Tasmania’s Where the Waters Meet annual conference in August – said it is time for essential service providers to rethink their approach to meet community needs.

“For the improved liveability of the community, we need to think in a holistic way and not as separate service providers. This can be done in Tasmania only if everyone focuses on delivering outcomes and not projects. It has the potential to form an example for others to follow,” Dharmabalan said.

“Our thinking paradigm needs to change. In the past, everybody was trying to improve the state’s drinking water systems and manage the sewerage systems to minimise environmental impacts. Now, it needs to be about the way we manage the water cycle to minimise climate change impacts.”

Dharmabalan said with advancements in climate models, sensor, digital and treatment technologies, the knowledge gained could be used to deliver cost-effective services to the community in a coordinated approach with many other service providers.

“The issue is in the thinking: more of the old and less of the new. When you try to solve a problem using 19th century thinking – without engaging with what has happened since then – you will not move forward.”

Dharmabalan said it is time for regulators to renew legislation to reflect the technology advancements in past decades, which will allow utilities to achieve more with less.

“Part of the problem is that regulations and legislations are a few decades old and haven’t caught up with the advancements of technology and increased customer expectations,” he said.

“We need to look at the regulatory burden on service delivery in light of today. At the moment, that is not happening. The majority of legislation is several decades old and a lot has changed in that time. We need to amend the appropriate clauses to ensure there is room for innovation to actually occur.

“If that doesn’t happen then we can’t move forward.”

Register for Tasmania’s Where the Waters Meet annual conference, held on August 18, to hear more from Dr Dharma Dharmabalan on the future of water in Tasmania.