1 June 2021

Water sustainability should be a priority even when dams are full

| Lottie Twyford
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Man conducting water science experiment at Questacon in Canberra

During Water Week in October 2021, Questacon’s newest exhibit will engage visitors through experiments and interactive elements relating to water sustainability. Photo: Questacon.

Even with all the rain the capital region has experienced recently, scientists and water experts say water sustainability still needs to be a priority.

A new exhibition that’s the brainchild of Questacon and Icon Water will take a deep dive into a living coral aquarium to teach visitors about how essential it is to release clean water into the environment.

During National Water Week, in October 2021, science experiments and hands-on activities will be offered at Questacon’s Q-Lab to engage young people and get visitors to explore the importance of water sustainability and management in the ACT.

Icon Water managing director Ray Hezkial says although the ACT’s dams and water storage are almost at 100 per cent capacity, it wasn’t so long ago they weren’t.

“We need to ensure that even when we have healthy storage volumes, we are still being careful with our usage,” he said. “Things can change quickly and we can find ourselves in drought or in a situation of water scarcity.”

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He added that sustainability is not only about having adequate supply of a finite resource for the population, but actively ensuring preparedness for future generations.

“We see ourselves as custodians of the water cycle on behalf of our community,” said Mr Hezkial.

The team at Icon Water is also aware it is younger generations that will be tasked with looking after our resources, and wants to educate them now about the importance of this responsibility. This is why the company has joined forces with Questacon.

“Questacon has a solid track record of breaking down these big ideas and making them accessible to people,” said Mr Hezkial.

Aquarium at Questacon

An educational aquarium at Questacon in Canberra. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Questacon director Professor Graham Durant AM said he is excited to share the message that healthy reefs start with healthy rivers, and that healthy rivers are everyone’s business.

Mr Hezkial said his two children are good at acting as a social conscience for the adults in their lives.

“I believe if you teach kids good habits from a young age, they can teach them to their friends, families and future communities,” he said.

“My kids are constantly reminding me to turn off the tap in the bathroom when I’m brushing my teeth, or turn off the light when I’m in a different room.”

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In the ACT, Icon Water manages and operates four dams as well as the catchments that support them. At every step along the way, actions have to be taken to ensure the safety and quality of the water.

Mr Hezkial said water sustainability goes much further than just ensuring adequate supplies.

“It starts right back at the catchments so we talk a lot about the importance of ecosystems and protecting our waterways right from the rivers and catchments that feed our storage reservoirs,” he said.

“Our system is based on ensuring water is maintained at a high quality long before it even gets to a treatment plant.”

According to Mr Hezkial, one innovative way Icon Water is tackling water quality and biodiversity issues is by funding and supporting artificial rock reef habitats for endangered species such as the freshwater Macquarie perch.

These habitats were constructed during the enlargement of Cotter Dam, and ongoing monitoring of the species continues in partnership with experts in the field.

“Through water management, we can ensure the rivers flowing downstream of dams are also healthy ecosystems for wildlife,” said Mr Hezkial.

This will be an ongoing partnership between Icon Water and Questacon, and will enable an annual one-week water-themed education program for the next three years. It’s all been made possible thanks to Icon Water’s Community Support Program.

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Capital Retro11:34 am 04 Jun 21

Pete Macca, virtue signaling councils and tin-pot Territory governments are depriving our inland river system of natural flow rainwater which they mandate must be harvested for household water tanks even though we are a civilised society with world class water reticulation systems.

Exactly. Which makes a mockery of Icon’s attempt a few years ago, at the behest of Canberra’s golf and bowling club, to restructure their fees. The Icon proposal was to charge much more as fixed costs, and usage costs to be slashed. That would benefit clubs and other heavy water users, and cause significant increases for households.

Those of us who have done everything we can to reduce water use would have been penalised.

Icon should be ashamed at having even contemplated such a move, let alone getting as far as community consultation. It was the actions of a few who were infuriated by Icon’s move that saved us.

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