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Water Utilities Conference 2023: Exploring Innovation and Adapting to Challenges

The annual Water Utilities Conference, held from June 26 to 28, 2023, provided a platform for key industry players to deliberate on water and sewer management issues. Among the attendees was Formbird, a leading innovator in water and sewer operational works management solutions, who keenly absorbed the plethora of insights from industry experts and policymakers.

The conference was inaugurated by Cr Ken Keith OAM, Mayor of Parkes Shire Council, and Scott Phillips, Chief Executive of Local Government NSW, followed by a pre-recorded federal minister’s address by Tanya Plibersek MP, the Minister for the Environment and Water.

Addressing the gathering, Vince Keogh of the Department of Planning and Environment and several other panellists examined the challenges of providing quality water supply to rural and remote communities. Naomi Schipanski of Tamworth Regional Council and Daniel Alexander from Beca HunterH2O explored strategic risk-based approaches to assess capital assets, demonstrating potential cost savings and improvements in water network resilience.

In a session highlighting innovation and technology in the water sector, Rohit Srivastava of Berrigan Shire Council illustrated the implementation and outcomes of smart water metering, followed by Doug Moorby of Narromine Shire Council and Derek Atkinson of Isle Utilities, who presented on the introduction of ceramic membranes in water treatment.

The conference’s focus shifted to resilience and recovery from drought, fire, and floods, with presentations on how communities and services, like the ones managed by Formbird, adapt and respond to these challenges. Speakers, including Brie Jowett of Tweed Shire Council, discussed building back better and creating resilient workforces in the wake of these events.

The second day of the conference opened with a panel discussion on the future water workforce, stressing the need for skill enhancement to ensure safe and reliable water services. Professor Stuart Khan from the University of New South Wales provided valuable insights on managing drinking water during extreme events. Cybersecurity issues in local water utilities were also underlined, highlighting the increased threat of cyber-attacks on government infrastructure.

The conference concluded on a high note with sessions on collaborative approaches to water management and the role of water as an economic driver. The Parkes Shire Council representatives shared their unique challenge of providing town water and securing water to attract business, indicating how water has become an economic driver for the council.

Formbird’s participation in the conference reinforced its commitment to innovative water and sewer operational works management, equipping it with the latest strategies to continue its growth in the industry.