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Welcome to 2020 from SA Chair Elsie Mann

Elsie Mann Australian Water Association SA Chair Elsie Mann

I don’t know how you feel, but I sense the ringing in of the new year has been very different this year. At the start of a new decade, I feel uncertain. I had the opportunity to travel to New Zealand after Christmas, where the smoke from the fires in Australia was blanketing much of the country. Leaving Adelaide, we flew directly over a still smouldering Cudlee Creek, and transited through a smoky Sydney. On our return, smoke from Kangaroo Island was spreading over Adelaide; I downloaded an air quality app as I wondered whether I was better off taking the train rather than riding to work.

The news is filled with images that are terrifying and distressing. The impact of bushfires this season has been far reaching, and I think has affected everyone; some directly and materially, while others are impacted emotionally. The consequences will be environmental, social and economic – their influence will be geographically vast, and will affect us for a long time to come. I have found the support that has been shown, both locally and from overseas, both inspiring and at the same time overwhelming.

How do we best respond in the midst of so much information (and misinformation)? How do we make a positive contribution in the short-term and the longer-term? Personally, I have given some money, and I’m also trying to propagate plants from my garden to share with those impacted by fire. It feels good to contribute in these small ways, and in doing so feeling part of a community.

As acknowledged in AWA’s statement about the bushfire crisis, connection and collaboration within our industry will be important as we deal with immediate and ongoing challenges. Focusing on right and wrong can be limiting, because with these complex issues there is never a simple solution. I believe it is clear that we cannot maintain the status quo, and so we have to decide how we will change. We will be making trade-offs, and we need to understand the consequences of those trade-offs to inform our decisions and influence our path forwards in positive ways.

Echoing President Carmel Krogh’s message, we welcome feedback on how we, as an industry representative body, can contribute to Australia’s recovery efforts. At the least we can strengthen our networks, seek to learn from diverse experiences, continue to connect and discuss, and engage in respectful debate. I would love to hear from any members who have ideas about how we can increase the diversity of voices participating in and contributing to our events.

Our first opportunity to connect this year was at a technical event about the journey to open a number of South Australian reservoirs for recreation. Attendees heard from those directly involved in implementing this initiative, including the risks and benefits.

Our Young Water Professional Sundowner series continues on the third Thursday of the month, with a meeting on 20 February. I have really enjoyed attending these informal but informative events and look forward to seeing you there.

Looking further forward, please put 1 April (note date change) in your diary for our Ministerial breakfast, where you will have the opportunity to hear both Minister Speirs and SA Water CEO David Ryan share their thoughts on water security. 

Last but not least, Ozwater’20 will be here before we know it. All the signs are indicating this will be a really successful event and we hope everyone will get involved and take advantage of the fact it is being held locally. At the very least, make some time to visit the exhibition hall and encourage your colleagues (and friends and family!) to do the same.

Elsie Mann is the AWA South Australia Branch Chair.