At Ozwater'21 we held two sessions titled: the many faces of resilience.
We covered a range of topics under this theme including:
- customer trends and affordability
- the role of innovation
- climate change
- asset performance
- regional capability
- investment needs and water security.
We interspersed our speakers with short videos from Alan Sutherland, Chief Executive for the Water Industry Commission in Scotland.
Roch Cheroux, WSAA Chair and Managing Director Sydney Water took us through the changes needed to our regulatory frameworks to address future challenges and encourage the right outcomes for customers in the long-term.
Lara Olsen, WSAA Board Member and Manager Director South East Water talked about innovation and how it can help address some of the challenges we face as an industry, however it won't always evolve in a structured way and we all have a role to play.
Anna Jackson, General Manager, Strategy, Engagement and Innovation, SA Water talked about the customer engagement undertaken for their most recent price review and the changing expectations of customers in relation to their water utility.
We finished this session with an interview between Danielle Francis, WSAA and Neil Brennan, CEO Seqwater on water security, the water grid and plans for the Western Corridor purified recycled water scheme.
In this session we opened with David Tucker, Chief of Infrastructure Assessment, Infrastructure Australia. David provided the big picture on infrastructure investment in Australia and the multiprong challenges of factoring in climate change and population growth and the emerging prominence of water in the Infrastructure Plan and Priority List.
WSAA's Stuart Wilson took us through future opex and capex trends and the possible impact on affordability. The last six years have been good for customer, utilities, regulators and shareholders, assisted by low interest rates. These conditions aren't expected to be repeated in the future. We expect higher expenditure for ageing assets, increased operating costs, rapidly growing RABs and at some stage higher interest rates. These conditions will be accentuated by a tight contractor market, all meaning that higher medium term prices are inevitable.
We heard from Sydney Water's Head of Business, Systems and Assets Planning, Kate Miles who took us through how Sydney Water is developing a resilience framework to move beyond reliability and renewals and into a more holistic system resilience approach. It encompasses the 5Rs of resilience; redundancy, resistance, reliability, response and recovery.
Jason Devitt, WSAA Board Member and Director Engineering and Commercial Infrastructure, Mackay Regional Council covered the picture from a regional perspective explaining that Queensland is focusing on raising the bar by establishing agreed minimum levels of service across the state, while dealing with asset management challenges, growth and decline challenges and ensuring access to appropriate skills and capability.
We finished the session by hearing from Brenton Grear, Director Green Adelaide. Brenton outlined the work of Green Adelaide and its new approach to managing the urban environment through 7 priorities including water resources and wetlands, green streets and flourishing parklands and biodiversity and water sensitive urban design.
WSAA's Peter Gee presented the Water Industry Mental Health Framework and WSAA's James Goode presented on the Asset Management Customer Value 2020 benchmarking industry outcomes. Both sessions were well attended. The AMCV paper was one of the top 14 papers from the conference.
In a standing room only session, WSAA's Danielle Francis was part of a panel considering whether there is a need for a national approach to purified recycled water for drinking. Our position is that a national approach would definitely be valuable in the areas of terminology, ensuring all options planning is mandatory, demonstration projects and information sharing among other things.
On Thursday morning WSAA's James Gardner facilitated a curated session on new approaches to extending pipe life. The workshop included 4 speakers including both water and wastewater asset life prediction and provided the opportunity for table discussions and questions to the panel.