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National Water Week: It's time to change the world

Every third week of October, National Water Week makes a splash across Australia, with the aim of inspiring individuals, communities and organisations to work together to build awareness around the value of water.

As all water professionals know, access to clean water is crucial to every aspect of our lives, and we must strive to protect our water environments and resources, and use water wisely. The theme for this year’s National Water Week – ‘It’s time to change the world’ – has been set with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in mind.

We asked some of the Australian Water Association’s principal members to share how they are working towards changing the world through water.


Michael Andrew, Head of Water Practice, South Australia and Victoria

The world is changing … and so are expectations regarding the water industry. Safe, efficient, continuous service provision will always be core to our industry, whether we are designers, constructors or on the frontline of operations.

"As an industry, we need to work together to meet the community’s expectations around climate change and sustainability."

Michael Andrew, AECOM

However, we understand it is our responsibility to continually improve in order to meet our customers’ growing expectations and our clients’ ambitions in regard to: value-for-money; developing and embedding digital engineering solutions; enabling smart, timely decision-making; implementing emerging technologies; and creating value where opportunities have been overlooked in the past. 

The circular economy is our focus now. AECOM has been developing innovative solutions as the lead designer on projects that maximise the value of the water-cycle — such as the Disco Road Source Separated Organics Facility in Toronto, Canada, and the advanced recycled water treatment plant in Victoria, which treats sewage effluent to a very high standard, which is then supplied to an industrial user instead of potable water.

As an industry, we need to work together to meet the community’s expectations around climate change and sustainability, including the reduction of asset footprints and construction activities, the creation of alternative energy, the minimisation of waste, or delivering other environmental benefits.

AECOM will continue to bring our problem-solving ability to the water industry to improve safety, deliver whole-of-life efficiencies and designs that promote reliability, preserve asset values and provide exceptional customer service.

George Theo visiting a Water on Tap van.


George Theo, Chief Executive Officer

Water scarcity is a global issue and we’re no different in South-East Queensland. Locally, we’re working with our bulk water supplier and water retailer partners to plan and manage drought conditions and increase our region’s resilience for the long-term.

We’re also looking at new ways of delivering a more sustainable total water cycle by expanding the use of effluent for purposes such as agriculture and irrigation, rather than simply discharging it into our waterways.

"We’re looking at new ways of delivering a more sustainable total water cycle."

George Theo, Unitywater

We actively pursue innovative solutions to improve the way we operate. This includes everything from green engineering solutions such as nutrient offsetting, renewable energies and wetland filtration to some exciting technologies that are transforming our water and sewer networks into smart, data-productive assets to improve asset performance, extend asset life and improve the customer experience.

We acknowledge and should never take for granted just how fortunate we are to live in an area with safe drinking water and sanitary sewerage services. More broadly, we’re proud to be involved in the Australian Water Association Indonesia-Australia Water Utility Improvement Program, where we’ve partnered with a water utility in Surabaya to share our knowledge and help build their technical capacity.

Closer to home, we are providing technical assistance to the community on Mornington Island to ensure safe sewerage services. Additionally, we have our Water on Tap program, which aims to make a positive difference to the environment by encouraging people to refill re-usable water bottles from the tap instead of buying wasteful, single-use plastic water bottles.

Unitywater also has a big heart. We care for our communities and support various organisations and causes to help tackle some of the social challenges in our region such as the prevention of domestic and family violence, homelessness, kids with all abilities and the environment.


David Lamy, Chief Executive Officer, Water Australia and New Zealand

My passion for changing the world through water began in 2000 when I joined SUEZ at Aguas Argentinas in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where my role was to help provide water and waste services to low socio-economic communities. Over this time, I have been committed to working with communities and cities to improve the way we use resources and face our global challenges, which is a key part of our vision at SUEZ.

"Breakthrough technologies are essential to changing our water future."

David Lamy, SUEZ

Each year SUEZ invests over $175 million in research and development and support over 650 dedicated researchers to drive leading-edge innovation from 17 dedicated hubs worldwide. Guided by our culture of innovation, our people are collaborating every day with our clients, partners and customers to build a sustainable, and water secure future.

Our local team provides over 7 million Australians with clean drinking water daily – and not only in our cities. We’ve harnessed global innovations and applied them locally with imagination and tenacity, bringing quality water to some of Australia’s most isolated communities. From delivering the nation’s first biological filtration plant in Adelaide River to the unique upgrade of the Borroloola Water Treatment Plant in the remote Northern Territory. Breakthrough technologies are essential to changing our water future.

SUEZ is currently upgrading the Boneo Water Recycling Plant in Victoria, embedding our solutions to reduce oxygen consumption and dramatically boost biogas yields for electricity generation – one of a range of enhancements taking the facility towards carbon neutrality.


Jim Athanas, Oceania Managing Director

Water is critical to life, as without water there is no life!

As a global leading water technology company, we embrace the key role we need to play in addressing
the world’s water challenges.

"We are empowering communities to be more resilient via our Xylem Watermark program."

Jim Athanas, XYLEM

Firstly, through our industry leading solutions we provide for customers via our cutting-edge technologies and passionate teams. These solutions optimise water management with savings in water, energy and operational costs making water more affordable and accessible for communities around the world.

Secondly, we are focused on building a sustainable company. Our strong financial foundation allows us to create economic and social value for our stakeholders, customers and communities. We proudly promote diversity, inclusion and environmentally friendly practices and the need to operate with safety and integrity always front of mind.

Finally, we are empowering communities to be more resilient via our Xylem Watermark program and the volunteering spirit of Xylem’s 17,000+ global team.

We do this through providing clean drinking water systems for needy communities around the globe, supporting disaster relief projects with resources and expertise, and delivering education to young people to increase awareness of global water challenges.


Mark Nykiel, Chief Executive Officer

The world is rapidly changing and water scarcity is a local and global issue. At Vinidex we want to help
provide access to clean water and manage water flows in the most efficient way.

An industry leader in water supply systems, Vinidex provides innovative solutions for water pipelines for key infrastructure across Australia including: water, wastewater, building, agriculture, mining and industrial projects. As an early pioneer of plastic piping in Australia, we are passionate about building an innovative and sustainable future for water and energy.

"The world is rapidly changing and water scarcity is a local and global issue." Mark Nykiel, Vinidex

Vinidex works with industry and government to create water pipeline systems for remote and isolated rural areas, townships and our large cities to manage available water more efficiently.

We are a trusted Australian manufacturer with almost 60 years of expertise in the water industry. Our expertise in manufacturing PVC, PE and PP pipe systems is complemented by a large range of specialist products sourced worldwide.

As part of the Aliaxis group, a global leader in advanced plastic piping systems, Vinidex can leverage the
best specialised solutions to meet the needs of the local Australian market.

Plastic pipes and fittings are a smart engineered material of choice in many essential services. Plastic pipe systems provide safe, clean drinking water to Australian communities and proven, reliable drainage solutions, providing health and environmental benefits. They are engineered for a long service life and are sustainable as they have low embodied energy and can be recycled. Leveraging the qualities of plastic pipes will provide opportunities for sustainable water infrastructure essential to the development of our communities.

The Wentworth to Broken Hill pipeline project.


Bob Tilbury, Market Director – Water & Dams, Environment & Waste

SMEC has been at the leading edge of water infrastructure for 70 years, with origins in the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme, one of the world’s largest and most complex hydro-electric projects.

Our global team of specialists deliver projects that improve water supply and sanitation and support better management of water resources and wastewater, both in Australia and in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

"Our global team of specialists deliver projects that improve water supply and sanitation."

Bob Tilbury, SMEC

For example, we have been working for the past five years on the South Tarawa Sanitation Improvement Project in Kiribati, which is designed to improve public health and reduce chronic water-borne diseases and fatalities, particularly infant mortality, through better access to safe and sustainable water and sanitation services.

Another example is our partnership with Queensland Urban Utilities (QUU) to provide brownfield treatment plant renewals and upgrades at QUU’s six major urban Sewage Treatment Plants. Our contributions help to ensure that more than 1.4 million people in South East Queensland have secure access to drinking water and sewerage services.

We are also involved in rural water security projects such as the Wentworth to Broken Hill Pipeline and several irrigation projects in northern Australia.

Beyond our project scope, our people are motivated to make a difference in the communities where we operate. One way we do this is by supporting water supply and sanitation projects particularly in developing countries via the SMEC Foundation. Last year we funded the construction of clean water supply facilities for villages in Vietnam and India. This year we have just announced funding for water infrastructure in Bangladesh and Ethiopia.

First published as ‘It's time to change the world’ in Current magazine October 2019.