Partnerships and Collaboration

Strong partnerships, knowledge sharing, and coordination between organizations—states, agencies, utilities, researchers, and industries— contributed to success during the Millennium Drought. Governments and utilities invested heavily in partnerships that leveraged and deepened the networks and collaborations between stakeholder groups, and these partnerships were fundamental to the successful design and implementation of water savings efforts. These collaborations also signaled the "we're all in it together" ethos for conserving water and helped to foster greater public support.

Governments and utilities formed crucial partnerships with businesses that used water, as well as with those that manufactured and supplied water-using devices and provided services to help customers manage their water use. Most water efficiency programs were funded and led by utilities and state governments, but industry associations and trade groups (and their members) participated extensively in their design and implementation. Additionally, the Western Australian utility, WA Water Corporation, and the Western Australian government engaged irrigation and landscaping businesses in programs to build capacity and provide accreditation schemes.

Government agencies and utilities also formed interdepartmental drought response teams to coordinate state and regional efforts. For example, in the state of New South Wales, the Water CEOs group was chaired by the head of the Cabinet Office and comprised the heads of all water-related agencies and utilities. Likewise, in Melbourne, the Drought Coordinating Committee, which comprised members from across utilities and governments, was instrumental in coordinating drought actions. The committee has subsequently reconvened to review and revise the approach to drought planning and response.

The Millennium Drought also encouraged significant sharing of information and experiences across jurisdictions and cities. For example, in Perth and Melbourne, detailed surveys and analyses of how people used water were shared among utilities, spawning a new era of detailed sector- and end use-based forecasting of water demand that was used to design water efficiency programs and conduct long-term planning. Similarly, agencies in

South East Queensland drew on the long-term experience of Sydney Water to quickly design and launch large-scale water efficiency programs.

Additionally, water companies, utility industry associations, and state governments commissioned extensive research to inform their real-time responses to drought. By building industry experience, knowledge, and networks, Australian cities ensured they were well-positioned to deal with the drought, train a new generation of industry professionals, and plan for future climate uncertainty. However, since the end of the drought, the focus has shifted away from water efficiency programs, posing ongoing challenges in terms of maintaining expertise and knowledge throughout the industry. [1] [2]

There were, however, many missed opportunities to implement best- practice public engagement efforts during the drought. In most states, decisions about investments, policy choices, water use trade-offs, and levels of service were made centrally. Occasionally, this was done in consultation with industry representative organizations, but in many cases, it did not involve direct engagement with members of the broader community. Governments did not take advantage of the level of innovation that Australia had demonstrated in deploying robust forms of community engagement.

  • [1] 16.4 Community Engagement Communication and public engagement on drought conditions and watersavings programs were instrumental to the success of water savings initiatives. Water efficiency marketing and media campaigns were also effective in fostering support and empowering the community to take action. Thestrategies used in these campaigns included: • Linking water-use restrictions to information about the availabilityof incentives, rebates, and other water savings initiatives • Applying clear and consistent messages to focus community support on achieving a common goal, such as the Target 140 campaignin South East Queensland and the Target 155 campaign in Victoria,which reduced household water use to 37 gpcd (140 lcd) and 41 gpcd(155 lcd), respectively • Communicating directly with high water users through a directmail-out containing a survey and links to water saving offers, alongwith additional follow-up if there was no response
  • [2] Promoting case studies of businesses that participated in programsto save water Successful community engagement means effective listening as well asspeaking. Decision-making during drought involves trade-offs—and it isimportant to invite the community to provide their input on these tradeoffs. This helps to ensure that decisions reflect community preferences andin turn engender support for the decisions made. For example, in WesternAustralia, a robust and comprehensive community engagement process onwater security was undertaken in 2003, including a citizens' forum held atParliament House that was addressed by the State Premier.
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