- Reseach project
- – Western Pacific
Read the latest updates about the International WaterCentre, as well as contemporary water sector insights, water management news, and conversations with researchers, practitioners and students, from both Australia and abroad.
By mid-2021, the International Water Centre’s Dr Regina Souter hopes that many of the communities in the Solomon Islands and Fiji will have better access to safe and secure water, something that will dramatically improve health outcomes. Progress depends not so much on infrastructure as it does on local human capacity and political will, says the WASH and IWM specialist, who applies research and teaching to improve practical water management in the Pacific Islands. One of those research projects is Pacific Community Water Management Plus (PaCWaM+), which is a partnership with Griffith University, the University of South Pacific, and Solomon Islands National University, with the CSO Plan International Australia, Live and Learn Solomon Islands, Habitat for Humanity Australia, and Habitat for Humanity Fiji, as part of the Australian Government’s Water 4 Women Fund. “At the moment, many rural communities are supported to install water systems, but largely left on their own to operate and maintain the systems, including fixing unfamiliar technical problems or rehabilitating systems after disasters,” says Regina. “The PaCWaM+ research aims to identify ways communities can be better supported so that their water systems are more resilient, providing safe drinking water and meeting the needs of all members of the community, so that health and wellbeing are maximised.” There are also difficulties for communities in urban areas in accessing safe water and sanitation. “In Honiara in the Solomon Islands, 30 per cent of the population are living in unplanned settlements and most don’t have piped water services or safe sanitation,” says Regina.
Access to clean water is seen by many as a fundamental human right, but in some parts of the developing world, women are being forced to pay for it through ‘sextortion’. Pillar Avello, Program Manager for water governance at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), says that the problem is pervasive.
On an overcast mid-morning in downtown Nairobi, the roads are muddy and trenches strewn with garbage. That same garbage will invariably end up in the Nairobi River, which snakes through the city. In the informal settlements downstream. The river is so polluted with all manner of garbage and industrial effluent. Sometimes dead bodies wash up. Rehabilitation initiatives have yielded minimal success. The capital of 4.3 million people depend on water from the neighbouring Muranga County, while ironically, the permanent Nairobi River is rendered unusable. Standing on a restored riparian patch on the banks of Nairobi River where a dumpsite stood last year, Fred Okinda, a resident of Korogocho recalls his younger days with nostalgia. In the early 1990's he would swim with his friends in the river a short distance from his home. “Every day after school, swimming was our sport and we would come here with friends. The water was so clean,” he said.
Lloyd Eley-Smith and Megan Wood have been selected as the Master of Integrated Water Management (MIWM) domestic scholarship recipients for 2020. Domestic scholarships are open to applicants from Australian (citizens and permanent residents) and New Zealand (citizens). Dr Brian S McIntosh headed the scholarship selection panel. “We’ve seen a very high-quality group of applicants for this scholarship round – both for our international and our domestic scholarships. Megan and Lloyd stood out from the domestic applicants and we’re excited to welcome them into the MIWM program this year,” says Dr McIntosh. Both Lloyd and Megan will complete the MIMW program part-time, while they continue to work full-time. Both will also complete the program remotely, flying to Brisbane for week-long intensive learning sessions each trimester and participating in online classes. Lloyd is based in Sydney, Australia and is a Senior Case Manager for the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment in the New South Wales Government. Megan is based in Raglan, New Zealand and is a Director of Wainui Consulting Limited.
Sarah Watkins has fond memories of growing up in Melbourne. “When I was a kid, around eight years old, we would go down to the local creek in the Eastern suburbs, so a fairly well-established residential area, and we’d collect frogs’ eggs for school. We’d take them back to the classroom, watch the eggs hatch, look after the tadpoles and once they became frogs, we’d take them back to the creek and release them.” But things have changed; Melbourne’s waterways have changed. “You definitely can’t do that these days,” Sarah says. “Tadpoles aren’t commonly found in our urban waterways anymore.” Melbourne is Australia’s second largest city and has dominated Australia’s population growth for more than fifteen years, adding more than 50,000 people each year since 2003. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has projected that Melbourne could overtake Sydney – currently Australia’s largest city – in population at some point between 2030 and 2040. Sarah says the change is clear. “We’ve experienced a lot of growth in Melbourne. There’s been a lot of change. Within the last fifteen or twenty years, I’ve seen that kids can’t go down to their local creek and find frogs during the spring. I can see the degradation and that’s just from going out and personally experiencing my local waterways and parks.”