Outcomes from Ozwater’21

Ozwater—Australia’s premiere international water conference and trade exhibition—returned this year as a face-to-face event with international delegates attending online. On 4–6 May, Ozwater’21 was attended by over 1,100 delegates in person and over 100 online. The Australian Water Association (AWA) hosts the Ozwater conference each year, facilitating several events to further enhance knowledge sharing relations between Australia and Indo-Pacific countries under this year’s theme of “reimagining our water future”.

The Australian Water Partnership (AWP) supported Ozwater’21 as International Development Partner to continue momentum with its Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia Water Utility Improvement Programs (WUIP), the AWA Emerging Water Leader’s Program, and to highlight its recent support for early warning COVID-19 surveillance under the ColoSSoS Project (Collaboration on Sewage Surveillance of SARS-CoV-2), which is led by Water Research Australia and AWA.

L-R: AWP Program Officer Lucía Gamarra, Senior Program Officer Caity Windross, and CEO Michael Wilson at the AWP booth within the AWA Pavilion at Ozwater’21 (4–6 May 2021, Adelaide).

It was also an opportunity to engage with partners after a long period without face-to-face networking and learning opportunities, and to introduce AWP’s new CEO Michael Wilson, and Partnerships & Impact Lead Sarah Ransom to AWP partners and industry.

The WUIP workshop brought together over 50 water professionals from Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Australia to share the progress made across all three country programs, and to discuss the ongoing use of digital platforms to provide an alternative knowledge sharing approach during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Water Utility Improvement Program (WUIP) workshop on Day 1 at Ozwater’21 (4–6 May 2021, Adelaide).

During the ColoSSoS session, participants from across the Mekong region joined online to hear more about the methods that are being implemented across Australia and the additional benefits they are providing to governments in targeting their response to the pandemic. Over 100 water professionals, laboratory staff, and government officials involved in the surveillance of COVID-19 in water and wastewater environments from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia, and Australia attended. AWP partners are working with in-country partners to tailor these methods and demonstrate the benefits to each Mekong countries’ recovery approach.

The Emerging Water Leaders’ Program focused on sharing common challenges across the Asia-Pacific and mentoring to support the development of the next generation of water leaders. Over 50 young water professionals from across Australia, Nepal, and South East Asia attended the virtual knowledge sharing session with Lucía Gamarra giving a welcome on behalf of AWP.

Attendees discussed how diverse knowledge can be shared and implemented, including how young water professionals from Australia and across the Indo-Pacific can learn from and support each other in achieving our common goal of sustainable water management. The AWA, with support from their Association partners, is developing an online emerging water leaders’ network with water and wastewater partners across those regions.

AWP also hosted Australian young water professionals at the National Water Awards and Ozwater Gala Dinner—an event that recognises industry excellence across several award categories—where they were able to network with the AWP team and other delegates.

Australian young water professionals with the AWP team at the National Water Awards and Gala night (3 May 2021, Adelaide). Front L-R: Carla Frankel, Christopher Lee, Lucy Pocock. Back L-R: Renee Hague, Lucía Gamarra (AWP), Chela Bett, Caity Windross (AWP), Sarah Ransom (AWP), Pete Houston.

“It was wonderful to meet and support these inspiring Young Water Professionals and the YWP program at Ozwater’21. AWP is committed to supporting programs that provide capacity development and mentoring to the next generation of water professionals to tackle present and future water challenges,” said AWP Partnerships & Impact Lead Sarah Ransom.

Principal and Director of Risk Edge Dr Annette Davidson (a former AWP Expert Review Panel member), was awarded Water Professional of the Year at the National Water Awards. Annette founded three organisations over the last five years to help improve and transform water quality data and information governance, leading to tangible public health outcomes and achievement of SDG 6.7.

All award winners were announced in AWA’s media release, where Chief Executive Corinne Cheeseman said, “It is important to highlight the outstanding accomplishments across the water sector to inspire others, but most importantly to bring into focus important projects that need our attention. I would also like to thank our generous sponsors for their support of these awards.”

To gain entry into the National Water Awards, nominees must first pass the State Awards Program. The 2021/22 awards season opens on 15 June 2021, with some nomination deadlines closing by 31 August.

View other Ozwater’21 highlights on the Australian Water Association’s Flickr.

Feature image: Digital welcome display at Ozwater’21 (4–6 May 2021, Adelaide). Image by the Australian Water Association.
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