Saturday, April 18, 2009

My vocational visits

Well, where do I start? There's been many and I won't go too in depth but here's a brief overview of the who and what so far ...

United States Geological Survey (USGS) Water Science Center

Federal agency whose role is to conduct the science behind water as a resource. Discussed stream gauging technologoy, water quality in NC rivers, lakes and groundwater amongst many other things!

Unlike Mallee and Lower-Murray Darling areas, the groundwater here is fresh and therefore an additional resource. Auditing, monitoring and licensing of this resource is difficult however, as is educating the masses on the connectivity of groundwater and surface water.

North Carolina Water Resource Research Institute (WRRI)

Situated in the NC State University, which tends to be common for some agencies due to the huge part university plays in US life, this is one of 54 state WRRIs delivering benefits of knowledge sharing in research and information on water-related issues.

Findings from this research help local, state and federal agencies make decisions in managing water resources. The person I met with is also an economist so we had some great discussion on market-based instruments such as salinity impact zoning in the Mallee, as well as water trade markets in Australia and the US.

Harnett County Government - Public Utilities

I met with a true character here. With vision and passion, he leads this regional water provider well. Everyone else I meet in the industry knows him. He said to me, "You can live your whole damned life without love; but only three days without water".

My session with him was fun, challenging, interesting and I learnt a lot about the differences between the population pressures of places such as North Carolina compared to the space where I live. Regional water providers in areas such as this need to ensure sufficient interconnections between providers' infrastructure for supply during times of low flows or contamination.

Triangle J Council of Governments

For those in Australia, "Triangle J" is the term given to the area in NC comprising 13 counties and driven by the three major universities being Duke University, North Carolina State University and University of North Carolina.

This organisation has a coordinating role within the triangle and we discussed regional water resource issues and wider basin issues.

Water resource issues in the US can be complex due to demands from many users but also because rivers don't recognise those things we call state borders (of which there's many and they are very close together). A coordinated federal approach is attempted through the US Army Corps of Engineers who maintain minimum flows but more may be beneficial, with respect to water policy, etc.

Whilst the east coast of the US (where I am) appears "water sufficient" at present, demands in the future require action now. It is good to be able to discuss issues with water industry peers, each of us benefitting from the others' experience.

Neuse RIVERKEEPER Foundation

I learnt something here. RIVERKEEPER exists in Australia to a small degree, but not in my region. This organisation is essentially a public advocacy and education body. Whilst some similarities exist with our Water Watch and River Watch programs, this type of organisation was new to me.

City of Raleigh

Essentially a local council, I met with a girl who was kind of Australian as she was born in NC, had studied and lived in Australia and recently moved back to NC. Her accent was a real mish-mash.

She was working in a newly created position, 'Water Conservation Officer'. It has only been one month, but already she is making in-roads into water use efficiency and conservation measures. This is a good step.

Nicolas Institute for Environmental Policy - Duke University

Essentially policy advisors/writers for public and private sectors, the guys here are looking towards big ticket water policy issues. I met with the Director of State Policy and discussed Australian policies and provided information regarding water allocation and environmental water allocation, as well as learning about the evaluation process of policy risks and rewards. Common themes and issues were evident.

JJG Engineering

At first I wondered what value I would get from meeting with a private firm. I needn't have worried; these guys work for clients such as various government agencies and thus need to have an understanding on the broad policy framework. I got a lot from my discussions with JJG rep's, and really enjoyed my time with them. They had a handle on water and NRM issues at a national, state and local level.

I am looking forward to my next vocational days, where I will meet with various departments of the Department of Natural Resources, amongst other organisations.

Hope I haven't bored you all silly!


No comments: