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Cross-sector collaboration the key to achieving SDGs

Australian water authorities have a history of progressing sustainable development, but working with other sectors will help the industry bring about even greater change.

“The water sector has had a culture of social responsibility for a long time,” Monash Water Sensitive Cities Research Fellow Dr Paul Satur said.

“There are a wealth of initiatives extending beyond a ‘business as usual’ approach to water resource management that are having positive outcomes for things like public health, mitigating climate impacts, and social issues such as supporting gender equality.”

But individual water authorities can’t bring about change on their own. Instead, Satur said a greater contribution to sustainable development can be made by breaking down the silos of resource management and service delivery (including energy, waste, food, infrastructure and public health) to deliver innovative solutions in an integrated “whole of system” approach.

Satur will discuss this idea, which he sees as using the skills, expertise and capacities of the water sector to foster collaborations and integrated sustainable management, during his presentation at Ozwater’19 in May.

“Resource management sectors have traditionally sought to address sustainability and liveability challenges in insolation, but in recent years have begun to recognise the value in collaborative approaches,” Satur said.

“A more integrated approach can deliver outcomes with a much bigger impact and in a more economically efficient way … If you have four or five different sectors contributing finances and expertise to solve one problem, you’ll get a much better outcome.”

Breaking down barriers

Bringing together sectors that each have their own complex challenges, different service delivery challenges, systems and values, is a difficult task. One way of approaching this is through the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which can provide common ground across industries.

“The SDGs represent a framework that can’t be addressed by one sector alone,” Satur said.

“Organisations across sectors are grappling with the 17 SDGs … They are almost like a common dialogue.”

While water authorities have an obvious role to play in helping achieve specific goals, such as access to water and sanitation, Satur said it is increasingly clear that the sector has the capacity to deliver a much wider array of outcomes.

“There is a wealth of opportunity for the water sector to make a larger contribution and deliver co-benefits, like supporting vulnerable communities,” Satur said.

“At the end of the day, we’re seeking to improve liveability, sustainability and resilience, and by working across sectors we possess much greater capacity to do so.”

To learn more about how the water sector can drive change, don’t miss Dr Paul Satur’s presentation at Ozwater’19 in May. To find out more and to register, click here.