- 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.
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.”
In northern Australia, many remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are struggling to obtain first-world utility standards, such as 24/7 access to safe drinking water. Griffith University’s Dr Cara Beal, in partnership with the Queensland state government and regional service providers, set out to tackle the unsustainably high levels of water use in remote Indigenous communities through The Remote and Isolated Community Essential Services (RICES) project. “A critical pathway in improving the resilience and sustainability of water and water-related energy is to understand what is being used, why it’s being used, and the cultural and social drivers behind that use,” she says. Beal and her team installed smart water and energy meters in four remote communities—two in the Torres Straits, one in mainland Queensland, and one in outback Central Australia—to understand community consumption and raise awareness within the communities to drive behavioural changes.
“All that is happening in the environment, especially all the bad things, are the consequences of human activity,” says Master of Integrated Water Management student K M Ulil Amor Bin Zaman. “So, in the water sector, it’s the same. Things like pollution are happening because of human intervention. Water is not a single part. If the water becomes polluted, then the environment gets polluted, and people get affected. To preserve the world, everyone has to do their part.”
More than 30 million people live along the East African coastline—a number that is expected to double by 2030. A region heavily reliant on the Indian Ocean ecosystems for livelihoods and food security, both are under threat from overfishing, climate change, mining sand dunes and plastic pollution. Now, one conservation group has found a clever way to harness community support to fight back. “Oceans Without Borders works with local communities to strengthen their capacity to protect their local marine resources through effective patrolling and management of local community sanctuary areas,” says Dr Tess Hempson, a senior marine scientist at the organisation.
One and a half years on and Cape Town, a South African city of more than four million people, has made it through one of the largest municipal water failures in modern history. April 12, 2018 had been labelled “Day Zero”—the day Cape Town would run out of municipal water after experiencing the worst drought in a century and because of poor planning. Its dam water storage capacity had not kept up with its huge population growth and tensions between political parties led to much needed funding being withheld. The city, however, managed to stave off disaster through water conservation and efficiency measures, smarter use of data and some assistance from nature. High water tariffs and a ban on the use of municipal water for non-essential uses also helped. It is now looking at desalination and groundwater extraction as ways to diversify its future water resources. But its water situation is still shaky.