Supporting International Development through Ozwater’24 

This year, the Australian Water Partnership again supported and participated in OzWater, a prominent water industry conference hosted by the Australian Water Association (AWA). The theme of this year’s event, ‘Accelerating Action’ explored the critical role of water resources in tackling the climate challenge.  

As an official International Development Partner, AWP supported the International Development Stream focussed on ‘Building climate-resilient water sectors through international partnerships’. This stream featured AWA’s international partnerships contributing to the broader Sustainable Development Goals and Australia’s regional development priorities, and focused on the role of partnerships and the need for collaborative work to build a pathway for a climate-smart and resilient water sector.

Venina Ralagi from Water Authority Fiji meets with the AWP team at the exhibition booth.

Panel discussions in this stream featured water experts and utility leaders from the Pacific, Southeast Asia, and Australia. The sessions provided an overview of the challenges posed by climate change, including adverse impacts on water operators such as higher cost of production in the case of floods, business disruptions during droughts and relocation of treatment plants from salinity intrusions.

Ms Lusia Sefo Leau from the Pacific Water and Wastewater Association reflected on her 30 years of experience, recommending a bottom-up approach to bring about tangible changes: “Why not work to make changes from the ground level? Our work is about advocacy, advocating for water as a connector and not a sector.” 

AWP’s role as a catalyst for change was highlighted, featuring our involvement in climate change COPs and advocacy for increased women’s representation in international forums. 

AWP General Manager Sarah Ransom emphasised the need to approach climate issues in a more targeted and coordinated way by considering the interdependencies between water and climate. 

Ms Ransom mentioned that a key concern in achieving SDG 6 is the fact that water is underfunded: “Water is underfunded globally, and in order to get the funding we need, we must engage with the global climate infrastructure and take on the big and at times challenging conversations… so that water is funded appropriately in the future.”

In the second panel session, ‘Insights from utility partnerships across Southeast Asia and the Pacific’ discussion topics included strategies for non-revenue water reduction, energy efficiency, and improving disaster response. 

Conversations centred around the importance of reducing non-revenue water to improve financial sustainability and water security while addressing the diverse impacts of climate change, including increased volatility of climate events and resulting destruction. 

Effective approaches for disaster response and risk management capacity building in Indonesia were shared as examples. Speakers also discussed the necessity of incorporating climate change into long-term planning to ensure business sustainability. 

Overall, the sessions shed light on cooperation and collective responsibility in addressing water challenges. 

AWP team coming together for a group picture at Ozwater’24 Gala Dinner. Image Credit- AWA.

The way forward for the water sector is aligned with Australia’s Productivity Commission’s focus areas: integrated water resource management, climate variability to better understand approaches to fight and mitigate climate issues and an independent oversight body for improved accountability.

OzWater’24 highlighted the importance of considering interdependencies between water and climate to achieve sustainable water management and shed light on the benefits of twinning partnerships. Such partnerships go beyond technical competence and includes the humility, willingness to listen, learn from each other and collaborate to design programs addressing unique and complex climate problems. 

Featured Image: All the panellists and the chair for session ‘Uniting Water Leader Across Our Region’ coming together for a picture. Image Credit – AWA

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