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Uniting the water community at Ozwater’23

For SUEZ’s CEO of Australia and New Zealand, Mark Lautre, water is something that connects us all: a shared resource that transcends boundaries and touches every aspect of society.

“I think that’s why a lot of us water professionals are in this industry,” Lautre explained.

“Our business is about the whole cycle of water – from the catchments to the treatment, to the distribution to the collection of the wastewater and returning it to the environment.”

That outlook echoes the theme of this year’s Ozwater conference: United by Water. SUEZ is a Principal Sponsor of Ozwater’23, which will be held in Sydney between 10 and 12 May and is the largest water conference and exhibition in the Southern Hemisphere.

And it’s an event that Lautre is particularly looking forward to.

“The beauty is that it is supported by the whole industry, so we have people here – our colleagues, friends, clients and partners from all states – it's one event where you know you're going to meet the whole water community,” he said.

“We are a water company, so this is our convention. SUEZ has been a key player in this market since the early ‘90s – so we are well established – and in terms of the international presence, we've been in this business for 160 years.”

As part of its Ozwater plans, SUEZ hopes to share its message with water leaders and professionals who share the company’s passion for protecting water as a vital resource and ensuring a better future for all.

Confronting challenges

Lautre said SUEZ’s presenters at the conference will highlight the company’s investment in research and development, with experts set to discuss the importance of prioritising innovation as the world’s water sector faces significant environmental and climate change challenges.

“We're very honoured to have as many presenters as we do, and their presentations really reflect a lot of what is important to us,” he said.

One of these presentations will be delivered by Jodi Kerrigan, SUEZ’s Environment Manager – Production and Treatment Alliance, and will explore efforts to make SA Water’s Glenelg Wastewater Treatment Plant energy self-sufficient.

Across the 2021-2022 year, Kerrigan said the plant – which SUEZ operates together with SA Water in an alliance – managed to achieve a net-positive position, meaning it generated more energy than it used, and exported 618 MWh of surplus electricity to the grid.

“We’ve got a pretty good set of energy sources, so it’s about trying to maximise them in line with what’s going to reduce our carbon impact. So if we use more biogas and solar, we are taking less electricity from the grid and using less natural gas,” she said.

“I would really like to inspire people to have a look at their own processes, and to be looking at the carbon impact of the decisions that they make around energy, trials or different technologies that they implement.”

Developing people and the environment

Another presentation, by Aude Fumex, SUEZ’s Business Improvement Manager – Production and Treatment Alliance, will look at how the COVID-19 pandemic inspired the company to transform its training programs and knowledge transfer opportunities.

Fumex said the pandemic challenged SUEZ to build on and improve its training model, but has also led to ongoing benefits.

“The content of the presentation relies on a new methodology that we have put in place to ensure that we could still upskill our workforce in a remote manner. We are in an operational environment with a workforce which ultimately operates and maintains equipment. A lot of the valuable training we used to deliver in the past was face-to-face, hands-on training, which was delivered by technical experts based mostly in Paris,” she said.

“Ultimately, when COVID hit us, we couldn't fly people from Paris anymore, so we had to find a workaround to maintain that upskilling. And a workaround in terms of how to maintain training that is engaging, despite not being able to be face-to-face or hands-on.”

This has led to new methods of training that can be accessible at any time and be extended to more SUEZ employees than before.

“The water industry requires highly skilled people; those skills are not transferable among different industries,” Lautre said.

“That people empowerment piece is very important.”

Watersure Environmental Specialist Loreline Burcher will also be presenting for SUEZ with her report on 10-year revegetation project at the Victorian Desalination Plant in Daylston.

Burcher said the challenge was to integrate the infrastructure into the landscape, mitigating its visual and acoustic impacts.

“That's how the design came to life – this structure completely integrated into the landscape – with a green roof that extends out into 225 hectares of an eco-reserve accessible to the public. It was a real  challenge and so successfully implemented that I just can't wait to share it with people,” she said.

“The eco-reserve is so well-developed now that it's been recognised as a viable habitat for wildlife rehabilitation. We are in contact with Wildlife Rescue, and three koalas, in total since the start of the project, have been rehabilitated in the eco-reserve.

“It has been nominated as a good environment for them, with enough eucalyptus to help them thrive. So we actually created an environment that was not there before.”

Meet and greet

SUEZ invites all Ozwater’23 participants to visit its stand and speak with its specialists.

“The real value is all those little conversations you have at the stall and between meetings and bumping into old colleagues that you haven't seen for years. For me, that's the real value in the event,” Lautre said.

“We plan a lot of interactions, but whatever your plan is, there's so much more that just happens, because everyone's there together.”

Interested in hearing more about SUEZ’s plans to support customers through their ecological transitions, build resilient and sustainable water assets, and celebrate water’s vital role in global development? Book in to meet a member of the team at Ozwater’23 here.