June 2015

Alluvium's second cohort of IWC leaders

29.06.2015 - Posted by Adam Neilly
Are you a project champion or an enabling leader? Do you strive to inspire a shared vision and challenge the process? These are just some of the questions I spent time considering during a recent 4 day training intensive — the introduction to my 6 month participation in the International Water Centre’s (IWC) leadership short course.

Alluvium group on lawns of University of Queensland during IWC leadership course

The second cohort of Alluvium IWC leaders at Uni of Qld. From left: Leonie Duncan, Katie Fletcher, Brett Twycross, Karen White, Dan O'Halloran, Alexa McAuley, Andre Taylor (IWC), Adam Neilly, Andrew McMillan

The course has been tailored especially for Alluvium staff. This year’s participants included Alexa and Andrew from Sydney; Karen, Leonie and Dan from Melbourne; Katie from Brisbane; and Brett and I from Townsville — a mix of engineers, social scientists and environmental scientists.

The learnings from the course varied for each individual, but I can say with absolute confidence that everyone’s view of leadership was fundamentally changed. Dr Andre Taylor, the course leader and IWC Leadership Specialist, expertly delivered 3 days of learning about leadership. One of the major themes being that you don’t need to be in a position of authority to exercise leadership – you can lead regardless of your position in an organisation, you just need the right tools to do so. In essence, leadership is about taking a role in influencing change. Alluvium’s CEO, Dr Matt Francey, and Mr Dough Yuille, the World Wildlife Fund’s Brisbane policy manager for freshwater, were guest speakers; each sharing their own unique past experiences and valuable insights into leadership in the water industry.

“…you don’t need to be in a position of authority to exercise leadership – you can lead regardless of your position in an organisation, you just need the right tools to do so."

On day 4 we explored the concept of systems thinking and how various techniques could be applied to complex, messy problems to help arrive at solutions that we may have otherwise not considered. Dr Brian McIntosh, Senior Lecturer in Integrated Water Management at the IWC, had us drawing on butcher’s paper with thick whiteboard markers and sticking post-it notes on the walls in order to tackle real and messy problems that each of us were grappling with in our work lives. The engineers in the room initially had major reservations (as these tools are entirely foreign to us) but the results spoke for themselves, often resulting in a complete reframing of our view of the messy problem and some truly remarkable insights. We’re now converts to these techniques, so don’t be surprised if you see some (truly awful) butcher’s paper drawings and post-it notes on the walls of an Alluvium office should you come in for a visit.

The initial training session is complete, but the course doesn’t end there. We’re now working on our Individual Leadership Development Plans, which will guide us in improving our leadership capabilities over the next 6 to 12 months. We will also have regular coaching sessions with Dr Andre Taylor and peer support discussions with each other to keep us on the right path and further our learning, culminating in another 2 day visit to the University of Queensland later in the year.

I commend Alluvium for investing in this development opportunity for its staff and I look forward to putting the learning into practice for the benefit of our clients, the company and the broader industry.

Ipswich Integrated Water Strategy nominated for a Healthy Waterways award

17.06.2015 - Posted by Dan O'Halloran
Learning that the Ipswich City Council’s Integrated Water Strategy is in the running for a Queensland 2015 Healthy Waterways Award has made my day [see the nomination here.]

Image of a rural creek in Ipswich local government area

Image source: Healthy Waterways

I was fortunate to be part of the Alluvium team engaged in October 2013 to assist Ipswich City Council to set the scene for developing the Integrated Water Strategy. We helped Council assess the current state of the water cycle in Ipswich. Following that we helped them assess and classify waterways across the entire local government area.

I encourage everyone to go online and vote for the Ipswich Integrated Water Strategy. The project was the first time water cycle data from across stakeholder organisations had been collated and presented in one place to provide a snapshot of Ipswich’s water cycle. An important outcome was the recognition of the linear nature of the water cycle, the role of the Bremer River to convey stormwater, wastewater and industrial waste away from Ipswich, and the challenges that this approach is likely to present in the future, with a growing population and land use changes.

Congratulations to Ipswich City Council (in particular, Emma O’Neil and the NRM team) and the IWS Project Steering Committee for this great achievement. And (on a personal note) to my Alluvium team – Steve Skull, Karen White and Jacqui Reid – take a moment today to pause and feel proud of the part you played helping inform this project too.

The full strategy is available on the Ipswich City Council website, along with a summary version.

And don't forget to vote (voting closes soon, with announcements to be made Friday 19 June 2015)!

Presenting to the Sustainable Grazing Forum in Mackay

15.06.2015 - Posted by Rachel England
Reef Catchments recently held a sustainable grazing forum 'Sustainable Grazing on the Queensland Coast' in Mackay. The popular forum attracts upwards of 150+ graziers and industry representatives from across the region.

Cattle grazing in a paddock.
Image source: Reef Catchments

Our Brisbane-based engineer Misko Ivezich was invited to speak at the forum, to discuss stream bank and gully erosion and ways to reduce rates of erosion. Excessive rates of erosion can have impacts on land productivity and also large impacts on the health of our rivers and the Great Barrier Reef.

To hear the interview Misko gave to Local ABC radio after his presentation, click here.

Helping Katoomba High School build a rain garden

7.06.2015 - Posted by Alexa McAuley
In March, I helped Blue Mountains City Council build a small rain garden at Katoomba High School. The rain garden was designed as a demonstration project and was deliberately built using low cost and readily-available materials and components which could be installed by a handy person at home.

Alluvium with community members at Katoomba High School helping to install a rain garden

The planter box in place and the drainage work complete

The Blue Mountains community are enthusiastic environmental volunteers and Council hopes to build many more rain gardens with local people, so knowledge transfer was a key objective of the project. We structured the project to include two hands-on workshops – one with Council staff to install the planter box, liner and pipe work, and a second with the community to fill the rain garden with gravel and soil media and plant out the surface. As we completed the rain garden it was already raining, but not enough to deter the locals!

Alluvium and community members at Katoomba High School helping to install a small rain garden

A rock mulch layer was installed on the filter surface before planting out

The nature of the existing drainage system at the site meant that a saturated zone was a good option here. We haven’t normally included a saturated zone on such a small rain garden, however it will be good to test this approach at such a small scale.