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Connection and collaboration: The staples of AWA membership

The Australian Water Association (AWA) is an organisation that is diverse in its membership qualifications; it is one of the few organisations that can boast a membership that includes engineers, chemists, geologists, other “scientists”, technicians, and practitioners (such as water treatment operators).

Membership is also non-hierarchical with corporate members, CEOs, managers, field staff, graduates of all persuasions and students included. The strength of AWA therefore lies in its membership and the depth of knowledge held. Therefore, collaboration and connection should be the cornerstone of how the AWA membership operates.

One thing I have always found with AWA members, and water industry professionals in general, is their willingness to share knowledge and help. If you have a problem, someone within AWA has already had that problem and probably has a solution. It is to this end that I would encourage and urge members to pick up the phone and ask a question.

Being in a regional centre, I have found that the collaborative approach to information sharing is possibly stronger than in larger centres. I believe this is a function of the small size of regional council water businesses (50 to 150 as opposed to more than 1000 employees) rather than the fact that the larger organisations don’t collaborate. While the knowledge within smaller organisations is outstanding, in some respects, smaller organisations need to collaborate from a purely statistical standpoint because our smaller staff numbers reduces the breadth of experience.

Since being in a regional centre, I have had many positive experiences collaborating with colleagues from around the state; both receiving and providing support. This includes everything from Unitywater “loaning” our organisation team leader for a few months to assist in structural realignment, to a broadcast for help for some potassium permanganate for a small local authority – luckily, we had some and it was shipped within a couple of hours.

Collaborating is a truly positive experience, both in the receiving and the giving and one that we as water professionals enjoy. I have also found that when you do “phone a friend”, if they don’t have the answer, they know someone who does, and, in that way, the connecting continues.

So, I would encourage all AWA members to pick up the phone; no one minds a cold call if they have an opportunity to assist. Our diverse membership of water professionals provides so many opportunities to connect and collaborate, share knowledge and experiences or just have a chat.

Dr Nicole Davis is Chief Operating Officer, Water and Waste Services, Mackay Regional Council. This article was prepared for the February 2019 edition of Source QLD.