Sophie McGuiness and Andy Grodynski recently started on our Young Utility Leaders Development Program. In this blog they reflect on the recent WSAA Utility Chairs and MDs Symposium.

Andy Grodynski and I recently had the pleasure of immersing ourselves in the high-faluting world of the best blue-sky thinkers of the water industry after being selected for the Water Services Association of Australia Young Utility Leaders Development Program.  Andy is a Senior Project Manager at Seqwater, and I work for Watercare Services Limited as Operations Controller for wastewater in Central Auckland. Press fast-forward and next thing I knew I was on a plane across the ditch. We had met only a few months prior at our first Peter Cullen Trust Leadership session, and here we were in Canberra, ready to dive into the tough issues facing us as an industry. We found ourselves at a table at the National Press Gallery, a long way from home in Auckland and Brisbane, and to our surprise and satisfaction the atmosphere was one of true optimism.

Frosty Canberra hosted a cohort of water utility leaders at the Water Services Association of Australia Utility Chairs and MDs Symposium. Pat McCafferty of Yarra Valley Water opened the proceedings with a short story about Einstein which resonated with the tone of the symposium as a whole.

“A student of Albert Einstein’s once said to his professor, “These are the same questions you asked on last year’s test. Nothing has changed.” Einstein answered, “True enough, all the questions are the same; but this year, the answers are different.”

Australia and New Zealand are facing the on-coming summer where water shortages are already present and bush fires roam. Liveability and sustainability were at the forefront of our immersive round table discussions where we discussed purified recycled water for drinking, ways to make tap water the newest, hippest new drink, and the new possibilities of blue and green infrastructure in places like Singapore. As water utility leaders, we not only provide essential services of water and wastewater treatment, but we also contribute to the liveability of our communities and community spaces. People were signing on left, right, and centre to commit to these plans of improving our cities and rural areas, and investing in the safety and health of our people. This was probably my favourite part of the whole event, as these people I admire were so open with their pledges to work together towards a common cause, with great interest and excitement.

Health and Safety is a huge part of our work in water and wastewater infrastructure, and a piece of the puzzle has been missing. As an industry we will be enriching the lives of our workforce by committing to a mental health framework. This means saving lives and providing a safe workplace for all. If there was a keyword for the Symposium, it was commitment.

In a show of true commitment to the future of water, WSAA launched a paper - Urban Water Update 2019: Drought, Growth and Liveability at Parliament House, presented by Adam Lovell (Executive Director of WSAA), Wendy Caird (Chair of Icon Water) and Assistant Minister Hon Nola Marino. They spoke of a commitment to Australians with a climate change focus on meeting the challenges of water security with a National Water Initiative. This includes all public, private, and government groups participating in a sphere where all options are on the table. This is a big deal, and a loud call to all Australasians who live, work, and play without the fear of a water depleted future. We’ve always had these questions of how to improve our liveable spaces, yet in a future facing climate change, there are new ideas emerging all the time, and they are all valid.

If I learned anything in Canberra, it’s that the questions stay the same and the answers may change, but we can tackle them all with a little bit of optimism.

26 Sep 2019

Sophie McGuinness

Sophie McGuinness

Environmental Scientist