United by water: a drop in the ocean or wave of change?

United by water: a drop in the ocean or wave of change?

Ozwater’23: Australia’s premier water event and largest water conference and exhibition in the Southern Hemisphere. We had to be part of it!

Three days, 3,000 delegates, 210 presentation sessions on offer and 200+ exhibitors from over 29 countries. All brought together to collaborate, share ideas and unite as an industry championing for continual improvement. So did the event hashtag, #unitedbywater, get washed away or encourage a groundswell of collective activity?

With the UN-Water 2030 Strategy, a plan to collectively address the water and sanitation challenges we’re facing, firmly underpinning the conference program, Ozwater’23 delivered an exciting, inspiring and thought-provoking program.

Ozwater’23’s acknowledgement of our nation’s Traditional Custodians was at the forefront. Introduced to this year’s conference program was the yarning circle, a place to share knowledge and speak from the heart, regardless of role, gender, position, title or identity. As one attendee said, “I could be sitting next to a CEO and wouldn’t know it. We’re all just here to have a chat and share our experiences”. The great equaliser.

We learnt about projects moving at the speed of trust, not the project timeline, and how to better collaborate with the Traditional Custodians by building cultural intelligence into workplace culture policy.

We were buoyed by the innovation in the tech space, with many cool kids on the scenes coming up with examples of thinking outside the box on sustainability. Bug pasta anyone?!

Bumping into current and former colleagues gave us all the feels, whether it was as part of a technical panel on desalination featuring Sequana Partners or a light-hearted masterclass in engagement with Tracey Willingham and the Australian Water Association Water Literacy Specialist Network activity, ‘Water X-spurts – How well do you know what quiz’.

We were wowed by projects such as Sydney Water’s Arli Miller and Django Seccombe’s presentation about Western Parkland City’s plans to transition to a circular economy ecosystem through thoughtful land-use planning and wider re-use of water, materials and waste.

And finally, no conference is complete without something that truly challenges the way you think. The Hon. Rose Jackson, NSW Minister for Water, stopped us in our tracks when she noted that by 2030, the global demand for water will outstrip supply. That’s confirmation the time for action is now!

On the back of profound challenges faced by many over the last few years – droughts, floods, fire, COVID-19 – the conference was an opportunity to completely reimagine how the water sector services our communities and works together as a collective.

In the words of conference MC, Dr Sandra Hall, “when we are united, we can influence and create change”.

If the hashtag fits, wear it! #unitedbywater