Remembering the past and looking to the future: Ozwater’12

Friday, 11 May, 2012

This year, Ozwater’12 was held in Darling Harbour, Sydney. Russell Dawson, Leader, Koomurri Aboriginal Dance Company, welcomed everyone to country with his fabulous didgeridoo performance and Peter Robinson, Director, Australian Water Association (AWA), chaired the opening ceremony.

Celebrating the AWA’s 50th year, Ozwater’12 Chair David Barnes welcomed everyone and discussed the changes in the water industry over the last 50 years, which have included major shifts in technology, knowledge, management and regulation. The theme for this year’s conference and exhibition was two-fold: ‘Sharing Knowledge, Planning the Future’, and a lot of the discussion over the three days focused on these themes.

The biggest challenge in the past was to keep water on the agenda, said Tom Mollenkopf, CEO, AWA. Now it is still about that, but it must be for the right reason. The industry has in the past been more reactive to change. Mollenkopf said the water industry is great in a crisis and its response during the drought in Australia was a prime example, with infrastructure built on time and to budget to meet the crisis water supply conditions in many States. Another example was back in the ’70s, with beach pollution in Sydney reaching crisis and the ocean outfalls being built to address this problem and keep our beaches in pristine condition.

Kevin Young, Managing Director of Sydney Water, also reflected on the evolution of the water industry, saying it has come a long way. The grey-haired men in cardigans of 30 years ago no longer dominate the industry, which has now addressed the gender balance to a certain extent. The first female president of the AWA, Lucia Cade, who has served in the position since May last year, agreed that the gender balance is nearly there. Young believes that John Paterson of Hunter Water had a major role in the revolutionary change that addressed the gender balance in the water industry and promoted on talent rather than seniority.

Young said the focus of the water industry should now be on value and the customer. He said that customers are great in a crisis at reducing demand and sustaining that reduction. We are actually using less water now than in the ’70s with a million more people. Now the customers are demanding value, so optimising efficiency and energy is more important.

With hundreds of exhibitors and presenters at the show, there were a number of new technologies addressing optimisation of efficiency. Follow this site for further reports from the show.

By Carolyn Jackson

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