July 2011

A vision for integrating basin water management

29.07.2011 - Posted by Kane Travis
With carbon tax taking up a lot of media attention in the last few weeks, it is easy to forget about the massive water reform process being undertaken in the Murray-Darling Basin. Recently the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities provided the opportunity to comment on the proposed Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Framework for use of Commonwealth Environmental Water in the Murray-Darling Basin.

We have undertaken a wide range of work for federal authorities associated with water reform and reading the MER Framework document got me thinking about what else we could do to deliver the best water resource outcome for the environment into the future.

One thing that does strike me is the overall lack of integration. I don’t mean this as a criticism because I know how hard the challenge is, and that agencies are flat out dealing with their own internal priorities and processes. I do however see a whole raft of environmental water type programs and projects that would substantially benefit from connecting the dots between federal, state and regional programs.

Recently being involved in the Basin Plan Monitoring and Evaluation Program for the Murray Darling Basin Authority, I saw first hand how an integrated program logic model, if done well, can cut through the noise and provide a clear map of how the activities being undertaken combine to produce the overall high level outcomes, and importantly provide clarity on the data required to be able to communicate success.

I have a vision of bringing together the federal authorities, state government agencies and regional delivery bodies into the one room to map out a program logic to capture their activities, outcomes, goals and reporting needs that are associated with the provision of environmental water. Together we could create an integrated program logic that allows all agencies to understand where there are synergies, the extent and quality of data being produced by each organisation, and how the data could be shared and integrated between programs.

I have made a start on selling my vision, but accept it may be a long road ahead.

Alluvium Seeking Waterway Engineer

19.07.2011 - Posted by Stuart Cleven
We are looking for an experienced engineer to join us in Melbourne and help build further capacity in surface water and waterway management. So, if you have a high level understanding of channel hydraulics, stream processes and stream stability assessment and are keen to design urban and rural stream rehabilitation works where habitat protection, erosion control and sediment management are key considerations, apply! For more information on the position click here or give me a call on 0408 501 761.

Alluvium Turns Five

14.07.2011 - Posted by Kane Travis
On Friday night we celebrated Alluvium’s 5th birthday and Chris Arnott’s contribution to the business.

It was quite a milestone night. It is not possible to celebrate a birthday without some reflection. Over the 5 years we have seen Alluvium grow from a handful of people in Melbourne and Townsville with not much more than a lap top and a mobile phone, to a robust business of almost 40 people in 2011, a new presence in Canberra, and a continued drive to grow the business into areas where we can influence the national debate in river and catchment health, and continue to challenge our people. This success has come from our shared vision of providing outstanding client service and staff opportunities.

After an extended period of leave to consider the world and its opportunities, Chris has decided to seek out new challenges. He always had a 5 year plan and managed to carry off this transition almost to the day. Armed with his passions for making sense of the disorganised, treading the path less travelled, and creating a better world, Chris has decided to unleash his inner entrepreneur and start a new and unrelated business. With an office just down the road in South Melbourne, a phone, laptop and a room full of second hand furniture (sounds familiar) we have no doubt he will be enjoying himself and slowly starting to crank the gears of a new venture. Chris will continue to be available to the Alluvium Team to provide his unique insights into Australia’s waterway and water resources sectors.

Alluvium 2006 – 2011 has been a journey, and with any journey there are the highs and lows which make life interesting. Perhaps the most important aspect to me personally from the night is that the founding staff from 2006 are all still drinking beers together, reflecting on the past and looking forward to the future. This in my book is a very good definition of success.

Stormwater Policy

6.07.2011 - Posted by Rob Catchlove
The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has recently released a competitive grant round for ‘Stormwater harvesting and reuse projects’. There is $100 million available under this round (following $200 million already), and this time the Australian Government is seeking bigger projects with a minimum application of $1 million (or a $2 million project). The core aims of the program are:
  • improving the security of water supplies in Australia, without adding to greenhouse gas emissions
  • reducing the demand for potable water supplies
  • helping to reduce the impact of urban runoff on the ecological condition of receiving waters by protecting or improving water quality and the hydrological regime (e.g. protecting low flows and reducing the impact of high flows)
It is interesting that urban flooding issues are now included in this round, but how stormwater management and reducing potable supplies make a difference to flooding is not that clear. Stormwater programs are generally going to make only a tiny difference to flooding, and demand management is far more effective in reducing the demand for potable supplies.

In Victoria the State Government released a ‘Living Victoria, Living Melbourne road map’ a few months ago. It states the policy has three objectives:
  • establishing Victoria as a world leader in liveable cities and integrated water cycle management
  • driving generational change in how Melbourne uses rainwater, stormwater and recycled water to provide better water services and reduce Victoria’s footprint with regard to energy and water use
  • driving integrated projects and developments in Melbourne and regional cities to use stormwater, rainwater and recycled water to postpone Victoria’s next major water augmentation
Similar to the federal program there is a lack of overall detail to help us understand the thinking. It appears stormwater is becoming a more central part of the urban water system, but exactly how this works and what is meant by ‘integrated water cycle management’ and ‘generational change’ is yet to be determined. I believe that these issues are being worked on, but the lack of direction and detail around stormwater policy isn’t healthy for the community. Let’s hope it clears soon.

We need to ensure we learn from the past where well-funded programs failed to plan properly which resulted in disastrous outcomes. Stormwater management is more complex than many of these programs and there is a risk that if money isn’t targeted properly then it won’t contribute to better integrated water outcomes.