Talking about the ‘reality of rain’ before critical decisions are made about Brisbane’s water future is the aim of a new campaign by bulk water authority and CitySmart partner Seqwater. Sophie Walker, Manager Corporate and Community Relations, takes us on the journey.
South East Queensland has largely relied on dams for its water supply. But dams require rain to fall at the right time and in the right place to keep them topped up. During the Millennium Drought (2000-2008), many dams reached record lows and severe water restrictions were imposed.
The drought prompted the Queensland Government to build a desalination plant and recycled water scheme to produce water even when it’s not raining. The South East Queensland Water Grid also came into being – a network of pipes that allowed water to be shared around the region.
While the Water Grid is fully operational today, the drought ended before the desalination plant and recycled water scheme were fully brought online. The combined level of the region’s drinking water dams has not dipped below 70% since 2010. This high level of water security has meant issues other than water have been more top-of-mind in the community.
But with the climate changing and the reliability of the water sources of old decreasing, combined with population increases and with it demand for water, there’s little doubt new water sources will be needed in the future.
So, how do you start a conversation with the community about long-term water planning, amongst all the other noise in our busy lives, and at a time where our dams are looking healthy?
Enter Realities of Rain
Realities of Rain is a Seqwater campaign that asks people to imagine the times it has rained when they would have preferred it didn’t – on their wedding day, on a long-awaited holiday, even just after they’ve polished the car. By enacting this ‘Murphy’s Law’ scenario, communities can easily make the leap to understanding why sometimes it seems to rain everywhere but over the dams where it is needed most.
‘Because you can’t always count on the rain’ establishes clearly why Seqwater is planning for the future.
What that plan looks like is going to differ between communities. This is why Seqwater is getting out on the ground, region-by-region to find out how different communities value water and how they see their water future.
On the ground
Seqwater has been active in the Sunshine Coast region since August, talking to the community and delivering presentations to start the conversation about the realities of rain, supported by a social media and advertising campaign. The campaign and on-the-ground response will be rolled out in the Brisbane and Gold Coast regions in 2019.
Seqwater is planning the region’s water future and they want to know what communities think that could look like, based on the understanding that it is likely to be different, region by region.
The good news is that there is time to have these conversations with the community and discuss options. This is thanks to the investments made during the Millennium Drought – like the desalination plant, recycled water treatment plants and the Water Grid – and the water-wise behaviours that communities still continue to practice.
Reaching a shared understanding
Realities of Rain is just the first step in an ongoing conversation with communities about their water future. Communities understand that water is precious and not something to waste, and it’s vital to leading healthy and happy lives in a sustainable environment.
It’s also important to understand there is no silver bullet to solve all our water challenges. Making sure we have enough water for today and into the future will be a combination of using our existing infrastructure to its full potential, building new infrastructure and continuing to use water wisely.
If you would like to contribute to this discussion and share your thoughts about our shared water future, go to yourseqwater.com.au/realities-of-rain