By the bubbler with Dr Nicole Davis
Dr Nicole Davis has had a career in both the private and public realms within infrastructure and the environment sectors, including more than 25 years working in the water industry. Dr Davis began her career in Canberra working for a water utility. She was involved in the water reforms in South East Queensland and used her operational knowledge to influence and drive policy outcomes. Davis has spent time in the private sector consulting on various projects from water, environment and reports for government. She has been working as Chief Operating Officer, Water and Waste for Mackay Regional Council since August 2017.
How long have you been a member of the Australian Water Association?
Ages, to be honest, I couldn’t tell you an exact number of years. I was in AWA when I worked in Canberra in the '90s and then again more recently. I’ve been an individual member rather than just using the corporate membership, as I value being able to influence AWA and the opportunity to inspire positive change.
What drew you to the water industry?
I sort of fell into the water industry straight out of university and never looked back. I started my career working in a laboratory both sampling and testing various water samples (environmental waters, drinking water and wastewater). I then moved into operations for a wastewater treatment plant. I love being in operations and the dynamic, ever-changing water business.
Who or what do you draw inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from being able to provide clean drinking water to the community. People throughout the world need drinking water and there are many, many places that cannot provide clean drinking water. We can, so having the ability to have this positive impact is inspiring, motivating and rewarding.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love hiking. I got the bug many years ago when I walked the overland track in Tasmania in November carrying a 20 kg pack through snow (yes, snow in November!). I loved the peace, quiet and beauty. I’ve since done the hardest 110 km of the Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory, the Kepler Track in New Zealand, the gruelling Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea and this year’s challenge is Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
If you were a breed of dog, which would you be and why?
I’d be a mixed breed as they are smart, loyal, robust and (at least our bitsa is) very, very relaxed. It’s almost as if the mixed breed takes the best of the breeds that form it – they are unique!
What do you believe is currently the greatest challenge for your part of the water industry?
The biggest challenge generally for the water industry is climate change, especially after what we’ve seen so far this year. Whether it is the lack of water impacting water security, as well as the ability to even fight fires in some areas, the impact of a change in climate will lead to longer droughts, [more bushfires] and subsequently increased ash and sediment into our drinking water when it does rain.
From a more regional focus, one of the biggest challenges in my part of the industry is attracting and retaining staff. It isn’t even the challenge of water operators (always a big challenge everywhere) but the support services like electrical and mechanical staff. This is particularly the case when we are competing against the wages of the mining industry on our doorstep.
What messages would you like to give to your colleagues in the Queensland water sector?
Reach out to each other. One of the best things about the water industry is the friendly and helpful people involved; it really does feel like an extended family. This is where AWA comes into its own, connecting water professionals including scientists, engineers, operators and educators for the good of the industry and community. There is always someone who’s done what you’re trying to do and has learnt a lesson that can be helpful or can provide advice or support. Just pick up the phone as there is no such thing as a 'cold call' in the water industry, it’s just someone you don’t know quite yet.