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South East Queensland collaboration establishes landmark future planning program

Seqwater has partnered with Arup and South East Queensland service providers to deliver a landmark future planning program for water organisations and partners, with the unique and collaborative planning process uncovering crucial learnings for how the industry will tackle an uncertain water future.

Involving more than 50 participants from across the region’s water industry, the program workshops were held in April and May, gathering first to discuss major forces shaping the industry, and then reconvening to test various scenarios.

Arup Project Lead Elaine Pang said Arup came on board when Seqwater decided industry-wide collaboration was an important step in building a resilient industry capable of adaptively responding effectively to future challenges.

“Arup was the perfect partner for this work because we have a foresight methodology which is recognised globally. It involves looking at challenges into the future, including issues that haven't even happened yet,” Pang said.

“We put the challenges into a set of scenarios that describe the boundaries of possibility in the future. We identified eight key factors being the main driving forces for future changes to the region. That was workshopped with all the stakeholders to discuss what way these issues might go.

“Once we looked at all the factors, we then asked what the implications would be for Seqwater and other participants at the workshop. What do these things mean for their business going forward?”

Pang said the workshops included identifying drivers and scenario testing, which also focused on assessing the broader implications for response plans.

“The first workshop was about getting everyone on board with the process and agreeing on drivers or trends for the next 50 years. We took the first scenarios drafted at that workshop, developed them into detailed narratives and worked through them in the May workshop with the same stakeholders,” Pang said.

“We did some interesting testing where we added a wild card – like incredible sea level rise – which gave us a consensus of the robustness of scenarios and what each organisation might do around those scenarios.”

Seqwater Water Security Planning Team Leader Dimity Lynas said that while Seqwater has led the project in South East Queensland, the workshop program has involved the collaboration of a huge array of water organisations and industry bodies.

“We invited all of the councils in South East Queensland, State Government departments, and other industry bodies and future total water cycle thinkers such as CSIRO and the CRC, and various groups that we consider as part of our broader industry,” she said.

Lynas said the challenges facing the South East Queensland region are many and varied, and that taking insight from the whole industry is a crucial component of insuring adaptive water planning to create effective outcomes.

“We’ve got quite a fast growing population throughout the south east. We’ve got an aging demographic and the climate is variable. And there are obviously changes in technology which are coming upon us,” Lynas said.

“Liveability is a potentially large impact on future water supply. We need to be able to supply communities with what they want and need, but also manage expectation of how much it will cost. We need to be economical – it’s our responsibility to ensure water is affordable.”

And while the implications for planning into the future reach every part of the industry, Lynas said collaboration has surfaced as a crucial component of planning for an uncertain water future.

“A lot of the outcomes of this project have been around a recognition of the need to collaborate into the future. One of the important things that came out of the workshops was a greater understanding of the people within the industry, and how decisions are made by one organisation impact others,” she said.

“We all need to be in it together, so that when we are making decisions, we aren't doing it at risk to other organisations. We need to work together for the best outcome.”

More information about this landmark partnership and results of the workshop program will be available in late 2018:

Further tools and examples of Arup’s foresight work are available at: