14 November 2013

Here is a summary of the information and trends I gained from.

#Qwater13. http://wp.me/p2g64Q-2t They are my interpretations and not necessarily those of the speakers.  Happy to discuss them with anyone interested.

Managing the water cycle

  • No new water sources are required in QLD til 2032. We currently have twice the supply as required demand.
  • Water quality issues remain a concern due to the 2011/13 floods. The floods mobilised significant sediment in the Brisbane River, which is being transferred into Morton Bay.
  • The floods led to aquifer recharge, leading to an increase in TDS and hardness in the middle Brisbane river which is expected to continue for the next two years.
  • With industry restructures, new governments and failures of previous models we are still faced with lack of leadership and accountability across the water cycle. River & catchment health, nutrients offsets and holistic investments strategies are all issues that could be improved with a new leadership approach.
  • The CRC for water sensitivity cities is up and running and has the potential to shape our cities of the future. They are challenged with the lack of take up of many previous initiatives including IWCM.

Need for industry leadership

  • Many of the COAG reforms over the past 20 years have not led to improvements in the urban water industry. A new model of responsibility between the Federal & State Governments, utilities and providers needs to be established to drive future efficiency improvements.
  • We need long term planning, well outside the current political cycles. Droughts & floods will return and we need to be well prepared for all outcomes. We have historically had poor delivery & approval of planning in water infrastructure. (Hopefully the 30 year plan will address this)
  • Water is a key enabler of the economy, but has never been accepted by the community as a key industry had community acceptance as a key industry.
  • Water Innovation & R&D needs ongoing funding and growth driven by both the public & private sectors. This is currently poorly coordinated across different sectors and industry groups.

Achieving Contestability & private sector involvement

  • Contestability is about continuing to demonstrate that we are delivering our services in an efficient & effective manner.
  • Substantial private sector involvement currently exists in the water sector, with some 50% of major supplies provided by the private sector. QLD has less take up of private involvement than other states.
  • We need to determine how the private sector involvement can assist in areas that have traditionally had little attraction. This needs to include regional areas and utilities with high investment needs, conflicting with poor ability to fund.
  • Private sector can bring new approaches, culture change, new technologies; improved asset management, international knowledge, investment and better managed the risk.

Asset Management & Efficiency

  • Most organisations have a poor level of knowledge of their assets. After 20 years of asset management few standards in approach exist across the water sector.
  • The driver for lower cost of service continues to put pressure on organisations to get more from their current assets. The lack of availability of asset knowledge and skills restricts our improvement.
  • Future asset issues will be around asset optimisation, adaptation, mitigation, resilience, big data management, systems approach & anticipatory governance  
  • Current benchmarking is poor and hence it is hard to compare organisations. We need the ability to compare at whole of organisation, business unit and function levels.


  • Since the end of the droughts, customers have downgraded the importance of water and no longer recognise its value. This is associated with the industries out of sight out of mind approach.
  • Water has been caught up in general price rises and customers are demanding the lowering of the cost of service, without any real understanding of what they are paying for.
  • We need to restate our value proposition to our communities and have good feedback mechanisms to customers so they can modify behaviour.
  • There is an increase in the monitoring of customers comments on social media and a decline in asking them what they think. We need to convert customers from users to advocates.


  • Most current economic regulation is about controlling political pressures. Economic regulations are often at odds with community regulation eg. Environmental and health regulation drives higher cost solutions.
  • We need an economic framework, which addresses regulatory certainty, the whole of sector, the whole of government, customer engagement expectations, with proper establishment timeframes. It needs to cover issues of capital models, clarity on dividends & asset standards.
  • It needs to be a flexible framework, set a med term price path, with low burden of compliance and to provide certainty to future investment in the industry.

Better Managed

Provides management consultancy service to water utilities and infrastructure providers including;

  • Strategic Planning & Trend Analysis
  • Strategic Outsourcing & Procurement Reviews
  • Asset Management, Efficiency and Optimisation reviews & strategy
  • Business frameworks, systems, policies, processes and procedures

If you enjoyed this article, check out my latest summary of QWater 2014.

QWater 2013 - Nixon Clarity Blogs