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Country Water Actions

Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals, communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.

Australia: Watchful Eyes on Clean Waterways

July 2010

By Theresa Audrey O. Esteban Sector Officer Several pairs of watchful eyes focused on South East Queenslands waterways comprise a unique, all-inclusive partnership that safeguards water quality and ecosystem health. A Partnership for Clean Water Australias South East Queensland Healthy Waterways Partnership was established in 2001 to manage water quality and ecosystem health of freshwater, estuarine and marine systems in the area. The Partnership is a collaboration of over 113 organizations including the Queensland State Government and its agencies, 11 South East Queensland local governments, a number of industries, research and academic institutions, community-based groups, and the general public. These work together towards a shared vision of improving catchment management and waterway health. The Partnerships framework is a unique integrated and inclusive approach to water quality management that incorporates scientific research, community participation, planning, and policy and strategy development. Within the partnership framework, the healthy waterway strategy was developed to abate water quality decline and improve the ecosystem health of Moreton Bay and other catchments of South East Queensland. The strategy was developed through extensive consultations among the partners to align with other policies and plans in the region. It contains more than 500 individual actions to maintain and improve the health of Queenslands waterways. The Partnerships vision is clear as water: By 2026, our waterways and catchments will be healthy ecosystems supporting the livelihoods and lifestyles of people in South East Queensland, and will be managed through collaboration between community, government and industry. Queenslanders Affinity with Water With stunning beaches and vast water resources, including internationally renowned Moreton Bay, South East Queensland provides a perfect backdrop for a tropical retreat. The regions beautiful coastal areas and natural landscape have made it one of the favorite holiday destinations in Australia. Many property developers were encouraged to construct holiday rental apartments in Queenslands coastal areas to accommodate the growing number of tourists.
_____________________________ 1 Water Infrastructure Planning. Water for South East Queensland.

As one of Australias fastest growing regions, South East Queenslands population is concentrated heavily along the coast. The weather, natural resources, and new developments in the region have made it appealing not only to tourists but to local and foreign migrants. Population increase in the region is at the rate of 2.9% annually. To meet this growth, 75 square kilometers of bushland, agricultural land, and other rural land will have to be converted to housing and other urban purposes annually. Deteriorating Water Quality Queenslanders have strong affinity with their natural resources. Waterways and catchments have formed an integral part of their lifestyle and economy. But with the changing landscape, these natural resources will be exhausted and may not be able to provide its current demand. Waterways and catchments have already shown significant signs of stress. Research indicates that without significant actions most of regions waterways will deteriorate over the next 20 years. New developments and a booming population challenges South East Queenslands limited water supply. In 2006, the region experienced its worst water shortage recorded. 1 While both drought and lack of rainfall were huge contributing factors to the water crisis, personal, commercial and industrial misuse of available water was also a factor. For years, Queenslanders used water sprinklers any time of the day and washed their cars and garages with clean potable water. Many consumers wasted water like it will never run out. The challenge in South East Queensland is to ensure that in meeting the needs and demands of the growing population, its waterways are not compromised. To do this, the government had to identify solutions to the water supply problem and adopt a conservative albeit participatory approach to water management and use. To meet this challenge, careful planning and coordinated efforts at the regional, local, and community levels were called for, resulting in the unique partnership for healthy waterways.

Achieving the Partnerships Vision The Partnership developed four programs to achieve it vision. These are science and innovation program which provides information and tools to support decision makers ecosystem health monitoring program which provides an objective assessment of the health of waterways throughout SEQ water by design program which facilitates the implementation of water sensitive urban design (WSUD) communication and education program which helps raise awareness of the need to restore waterways The ecosystem health monitoring program is one of the partnerships hallmark. The program releases an Annual Report Card to local, State Governments, and the community which highlights whether the health of SEQs waterways is getting better or worse. The report cards present "A" to "F" health ratings of Queenslands waterways, providing a succinct snapshot of ecosystem health and serve as timely reminders for stakeholders to maintain or improve efforts to protect the waterways. Eva Abal, Science Director of the Partnership, who facilitates the development of the annual report cards, explains, [The report cards] can be used to reflect not only the health of waterways, but also indicate the extent of stewardship needed by our waterways and catchments. Its principles, process, communication strength, and leveraging power can be adopted easily in the Asia-Pacific region. The water by design program, on the other hand, builds on the implementation of WSUD, and provides tools and knowledge products on how cities, councils, and even developers can adopt this concept. WSUD provides a framework for the sustainable management and improvement of water quality entering the waterways from urban regions (cites, built up areas, towns, etc.). This includes concepts on the sustainable use of water such as stormwater and greywater harvesting and reuse, and innovative solutions to reduce potable water demand. Much of the healthy waterways strategy revolves around the protection and restoration of South East Queenslands waterways. Achievements to date include the reduction of pollutant discharges by local government and industry partners through the upgrading of wastewater treatment plants, wastewater recycling and water conservation initiatives, and the expansion of the ecosystem health monitoring program to include freshwater systems and tidal waterways, providing a better and more comprehensive basis for developing the annual report card. With so many watchful eyes guarding the purity and cleanliness of Queenslands waterways, it is not impossible for the Partnership to achieve its vision sooner than expected.

Related Links Water Champion Eva Abal: Bringing Scientists and Managers Together for Healthy Waterways South East Queensland Healthy Waterways Partnership*

_____________________________ *This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in July 2010: The Country Water Action series was developed to showcase reforms and good practices in the water sector undertaken by ADBs member countries. It offers a mix of experience and insights from projects funded by ADB and those undertaken directly by civil society, local governments, the private sector, media, and the academe. The Country Water Actions are regularly featured in ADBs Water for All News, which covers water sector developments in the Asia and Pacific region.