AWA Members Making an Impact at Global Water Events

Posted 16 October 2018
Authors/Contributors: Sandra Hall and Matt Dawson

September was an exciting month for international water events. The International Water Association’s (IWA) World Water Congress and Exhibition was held in Tokyo, Japan (16-21 September) and Water New Zealand (NZ) Conference and Expo celebrated 60 years in Hamilton, NZ (19-21 September). Our committee members, Sandra Hall (Japan) and Matt Dawson (NZ), were there to soak it in. 

Water New Zealand Conference

The annual Water New Zealand conference was held in Hamilton and a number of Queensland-based AWA members made the trip across the ditch to attend the conference.

The conference featured an excellent trade exhibition, workshops that focused on a range of industry topics and a diverse plenary program. The program covered topics including drinking water quality, stormwater management, asset management, advanced wastewater treatment, and trenchless technology / pipeline rehabilitation.  

An important focus of the conference was on dual issues of drinking water quality, and also industry structure – as the NZ Government and water industry work through responses following the Havelock North water supply contamination incident. There was a feeling of very honest and focused dialogue, and a determination to ensure safe and compliant delivery into the future. Some excellent speeches and presentations were delivered by the Local Government Minister and a range of senior water professionals from the Irish, Scottish and Australian industries, as NZ considers lessons from overseas.

The awards presented at the conference dinner highlighted a range of diverse and innovative activities taking place around the industry. The work of various parts of WaterCare (from Auckland) was prominently featured in the awards nominations.

IWA World Water Congress

Meanwhile in Japan, the IWA had a “renewed focus on interdisciplinary collaboration to address global water challenges”. The World Water Congress and Exhibition kicked off in style with the presence of their Imperial Highnesses, The Crown Prince, Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako Owada. Following the formalities we had a traditional breaking in of the Sake Barrel with AWA Board Member Jurg Keller lending a hand. 

IWA World Water Congress & Exhibition in Numbers

• 9815 participants from 98 countries
• 252 global exhibitors
• 88 technical sessions, 49 workshops
• 352 papers and 633 posters were presented
• 6 leadership forums, 7 plenaries, and 3 master classes
• 19 training and skills development workshops

These figures equal 280 hours of activities. It would be a challenge for someone to not find something to attend and everywhere you turned an Aussie was flying the flag, making a big impact. 

One of those who made a big impact was AWA member Professor Tony Wong. He was awarded IWA’s highest honour, the IWA Global Water Award. This award is in recognition of Tony’s pioneering work in water sensitive urban design approaches. Darryl Day, CEO of ICEWaRM and Professor Zhiguo Yuan, Director of the Advanced Water Management Centre at the University of Queensland, were both honoured with Distinguished Fellowships of the IWA. Associate Professor Eva Abal, CEO of the Internal River Foundation, was also inducted as an IWA Fellow (image below). Another Aussie award winner was Mario Jr Robles Rebosura, PhD student and AWA member from UQ, who was the Best Poster runner-up, a huge achievement considering there were 633 of them!

A highlight for AWA was the workshop People Management II – “A vision for cultural change through diversity”, designed by Jonathan McKeown, Kirsty Blades and Sandra Hall. The workshop yielded practical learnings on how to build better cultures and behaviours to support diversity in the workplace. A model was presented to share content, successes and challenges to assist individual leaders and participants to drive the cultural change required for success. The objectives of this workshop were to share knowledge and learnings from international change programs and individual stories; define the vision of a diverse, inclusive and equal industry; and gain practical advice on activities that can drive change in your workplace. Kirsty and Sandra were joined by Rosie Wheen, CEO of WaterAid Australia, and Pat McCafferty, Managing Director of Yarra Valley Water to deliver the workshop (image below).

The workshop was a great success and participants were impressed by what Australia has achieved within the country nationally, and also the work we have influenced in others internationally. Whilst workshops never have enough time, this workshop really delved into the challenges that the participants are facing – such as teams of professionals that all look the same, trying to obtain outcomes for diverse communities, or teams trying to achieve commercial outcomes that have come from a civil service culture. The workshop initiated conversations around possible activities and solutions that participants to could use to drive change. We had such a great time that we are now taking the workshop around the globe! Follow #ChannelingChange to see more of the workshop activities in Japan.

The exhibition was another highlight for our Aussie delegates, with the rallying point being the Australian Water Partnership (AWP)’s Pavilion, which featured a number of our AWA members. The exhibition of 252 organisations was quite overwhelming, and in the 5 days we only managed to visit about 60% of them. Through the support of AWP, the Aussie partners were also treated to a reception at the Residence of the Australian Ambassador to Japan, Richard Court. It was a wonderful night and opportunity for us to hear about the work we are doing that's making an impact in Japan. 

All good things must of course come to an end, and the IWA World Water Congress and Exhibition did so in style – with a 5-course banquet for about 2,500 people. Small and intimate it wasn’t, but a great party it was. The IWA has once again provided the perfect platform for global collaborations and interdisciplinary knowledge sharing. Mark 18-23 October, 2020 in the calendar for WWCE in Copenhagen, Denmark!