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The 2024 theme Accelerating Action is a rally cry to our community addressing the vital role water must play in the climate crisis of our current time. Together, we will ignite a powerful movement towards a sustainable water future. Ozwater'24 will take concrete steps to effect lasting change. 
We will explore actionable strategies that empower individuals, organisations, and governments to make a tangible impact.

The time is now to accelerate action and create a sustainable water future for generations to come. Join us at Ozwater’24 and be part of a movement that will shape the course of water management in the face of the climate crisis. 

 We’re counting on you to explore actionable strategies so future generations can thrive in a better, safer future. It’s time to walk the walk on water. 


The water sector plays a key role in achieving sustainable & thriving communities by understanding the community’s needs, involving them in decision making, developing solutions that improve sustainability and liveability, and delivering multiple benefits to the community and the environment. This applies across all landscapes, not just in urban areas. What can we do better to create more resilient communities of the future? 

  • Challenges and opportunities from population growth and climate change
  • The water sector’s role in delivering multiple benefits - greener, cooler cities, enhanced amenity and wellbeing 
  • Global megatrends to local actions – what do they mean for the water sector in achieving sustainable and thriving communities?
  • SDGs for all: how the water industry can drive social equality - local and global examples  
  • The water industry’s contribution to smart cities
  • Delivering liveable communities and resilient water systems 
  • Tools for and case studies of Integrated Water Management (IWM) across all scales of urban planning and development 
  • Aligning urban land use planning and urban water cycle planning
  • Decentralised and distributed systems, precinct scale and multi-utility solutions 
  • Case studies of successful governance, policy and project delivery across traditional silos
  • Meaningful engagement to drive and shape our communities of the future - local and global examples
  • Mainstreaming the delivery of water sensitive cities 

Provision of safe, secure water and sanitation is core business for the water sector be it in Australia or overseas. Excellence in operations, treatment and practices are critical to ensure we meet the needs of the customers and communities we service in the most efficient manner. With the digitisation of the water industry, excellence in operations extends to the way we operate our digital systems as well as our physical systems. What are the great operational achievements that are being delivered and how are they making a difference? What does the future hold for excellence in operations? Will digital lead analogue?

  • Transformative technologies and new treatment practices being implemented now
  • Game changing renewal and repair techniques
  • Digital transformations: smart plants, networks and data driven decisions
  • Energy optimisation 
  • Automation advances driven by data analytics and AI
  • Successful implementation of research and development into real gains
  • Innovative Industrial treatment solutions and the circular economy of trade waste
  • Water efficiency driven by digital innovation
  • Role of big data, remote sensing, AI and machine learning in operations
  • Delivering efficiencies and cost reductions
  • IT / OT integration
  • Addressing the challenges of cyber security

Effective planning, design, delivery and renewal of assets is critical to providing safe and reliable services at an affordable cost. The delivery of the industry’s solutions is extending beyond the gate to include green assets and the management of the natural environment. Tell us how asset management, planning and solution delivery is building our future communities in the face of an uncertain future. 

  • Asset planning, capital delivery and lifecycle optimisation including multi-functional assets
  • Planning for climate change
  • Green infrastructure and nature based solutions
  • Future planning and economic models for ESG and lifecycle assessment
  • Engineering advances delivering wider project benefits
  • Targeted maintenance and asset failure prediction
  • Successful implementation of research and development
  • Productivity and maintenance optimisation 
  • Advances in water resource and catchment management practices 
  • Innovative maintenance practices / tools and the role of big data, remote sensing, AI and machine learning in asset management
  • Using digital in project delivery to achieve success 
  • Operations and asset management to achieve co-benefits for liveability and sustainability 
  • Frameworks for asset decision making, going beyond financial metrics to deliver multiple benefits

The world of CX (Customer Experience) is rapidly evolving and the links between CX and business sustainability are becoming stronger. As custodians of a precious resource, and as an industry that delivers an essential service to customers every day, how are we engaging with the community to deliver information, education and excellent service? The water industry services many different types of water users (including the environment) and as community expectations continue to evolve, embracing CX strategies and technologies will be crucial. 

  • The criticality of trusted services
  • Purified Recycled Water: having a productive and safe community conversation
  • Knowing our customers in the water sector: Developer / Stakeholder / Citizen / Environment
  • Understanding customer behaviour and attitudes
  • Designing experiences and products for different customer types
  • Getting clear on perceptions of value and willingness to pay
  • A new understanding of hardship and vulnerability – tailoring customer support
  • Championing the voice of the customer in decision making and strategy
  • The value of community education and water literacy
  • The use of technology to deliver exceptional customer experiences
  • Creating customer-centric operations teams

People are the essence of the water sector. They provide the leadership, drive, vision and skills that ensure the sector drives action for customers and communities, and meets the new challenges of a digital future. A diverse and inclusive workforce is shown to be a more productive workforce with both tangible and intangible benefits including improved community relations and more creative ideas. The water sector also plays an important role in driving greater diversity, inclusion and equity across the community, including through achieving liveability and access outcomes for all.   

The wellbeing of our colleagues and peers is a continual challenge. Businesses have had to respond like never before to ensure the psychological, emotional, intellectual and social wellbeing of their staff. How has the industry adopted and responded to this challenge?  What innovative programs and approaches can be shared? Where is more investment and support required? 

  • Cultural transformation: shifting perceptions, behaviours and capabilities in the water sector
  • Supporting the LGBTIQ+ community
  • How does diverse water knowledge, values and expectations (water cultures) influence practices, operations, planning and management? Benefits and ability to engage across cultures in cities, regional and remote areas.
  • Diversifying leadership - new models and practices to support opportunities for new leaders including women, First Nations leaders, young people, diverse backgrounds, people with disabilities and community champions
  • How are organisations fostering diversity and inclusion in their own organisations, supply chains and service delivery 
  • Addressing unconscious bias in the water industry & driving an inclusive workplace
  • Attracting and retaining professionals in the water sector 
  • How does Australia and the international community work to ensure inclusion and equity for all members of the community to receive access to safe water supply and sanitation services?
  • Working in a pandemic – adaptive work practices and learnings 
  • Change management and building and agile organisation
  • Successful wellbeing programs and their implementation
  • What is best practice in wellbeing in overseas organisations and across other sectors? 
  • Embedding a wellbeing culture 
  • Using technology to improve wellbeing outcomes 
  • Incident trends 
  • Building a flexible, adaptive and resilient workforce
  • How to build a successful wellbeing program through tailored consultation

The water sector has identified the need for objectives or outcomes related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, access to water and greater engagement on sustainable water management. There has been no material increase in water allocation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their engagement in water planning over the past decade. How do we progress this engagement? How do we move beyond engagement to meaningful actions? By listening to the voices of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people, we can reflect on the past to recognise and value traditional responsibility for land and water. We can then build constructive and positive future partnerships for sustainable water management. What are examples of successful engagement of First Nations people in water management globally? What do we still need to learn and how do we learn? 

  • Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander water rights and cultural flows assessments 
  • First Nations people’s leadership and involvement in water sector programs to achieve sustainable and thriving communities
  • Implementing surface water and groundwater plans to address environmental flows and cultural entitlements within their allocations
  • Incorporating First Nations community inputs into water governance arrangements and enhancing the level of communications with community representatives
  • First Nations insights on regulatory and policy changes
  • Community engagement and facilitating knowledge sharing on the Murray-Darling Basin system
  • Reconciliation Action Plans in practice: What it means for our people, workplace and sectors
  • First Nations leadership of and involvement in delivery of projects
  • Caring for Country, culture and people – First Nations water stories, case studies and projects from Australia and around the world

Strong leadership, governance and progressive strategy and regulation are important elements that enable the water sector to achieve the desired outcomes at a community, industry and organisation level. Being agile and able to respond to action needed is key for the industry moving forward. Who is doing this well now and what can we learn? 

  • Examples of contemporary business practice outpacing regulation and policy, leading change
  • Leading environmental, social and economic outcomes 
  • What does good governance look like? Case studies and examples 
  • How can we enable the operating environment to drive innovation? 
  • Collaborating in a competitive environment 
  • Best practice in policy and regulation 
  • Using ESG frameworks to drive change
  • Best practice in managing risk and opportunity
  • How is technology and innovation shaping governance, policy and regulation?
  • Facilitating integrated decision making across governance and management boundaries 
  • Water pricing and valuation
  • What economic and governance frameworks/models are required to enhance private sector participation in developing countries?
  • Regulation – how do you take a long-term view when extreme financial events often dominate public thinking
  • Enabling water sensitive cities 
  • How are the SDGs guiding water planning management and operations?
  • Integrating water and land use planning - progress and challenges
  • Climate change reporting - getting ahead of the game

The water sector plays a significant role in the health of the community, both directly and indirectly. Most evident in the past has been the health and safety benefits from safe drinking water, sewerage services and flood protection. The water industry also has an essential role to play in improving the built and natural environment of our communities and this is becoming an increased focus for the industry. What action is being taken to secure and safeguard the future health of people and the environment? 

  • Protecting the environmental values of the receiving environment
  • Catchment management for environmental, cultural and social values
  • Emerging contaminants (e.g. microplastics and PFAS): separating evidence from speculation 
  • Health based targets: examples of implementation 
  • Meeting SDG targets for clean water and sanitation and progress in Australia
  • Risk-based management of catchments to protect source water quality
  • Risk assessment for protozoa and viruses in drinking water and recycled water 
  • Emerging climate-driven microbial risks and management 
  • How can adoption and implementation of World Health Organisation drinking water standards improve the quality of life in developing countries?
  • Response to wastewater overflows and other environmental impacts
  • Fit-for-purpose water supply 
  • Monitoring for environmental impacts
  • Lead contamination 
  • Maintaining trust with the community through environmental and public health
  • The role of water quantity and quality in supporting the health of environments
  • Involving the community in the health, wellbeing and environmental values they want to see safeguarded
  • Quantifying the benefits of the water sector, evidence base on the value of interventions - public health and wellbeing as environmental and social outcomes
  • Strategies for adoption and implementation of improved sanitation standards in developing countries

The linear model of extraction, production, consumption and disposal has come to an end.  A circular economy is one that looks to minimise waste and make the most of resources. Wastewater treatment plants will be resource recovery centres with the resources – water, carbon, nutrients, energy being recovered and returned to the community. What action is being taken now to achieve a circular economy and where are we lacking? What policy, regulatory, governance and business model transformations are needed to drive a circular economy, and the water sector’s pivotal role in it?

  • Co-digestion and organic waste to energy  
  • Water recycling 
  • Nutrient recovery – is there any gold to be recovered?
  • Biosolids utilisation – from agricultural application to energy recovery
  • Novel materials (VFA, bioplastics etc)
  • Energy recovery and waste to energy – we can do it but do the economics stack up?
  • Circular economy: what does it mean for communication, public and stakeholder engagement, and incentives?
  • New policies, business models and investment strategies (non-regulated business) 
  • Overcoming regulatory hurdles in achieving a circular economy
  • Net zero carbon water cycle cities
  • Water treatment plant operations, distribution system operations, and research
  • Improving environmental flows through management of consumptive and non-consumptive uses
  • Regenerating natural capital

In recent years the Australian and global water sector has been faced with a range of extreme events: droughts, floods and fires. What did we learn from these events? What are the response success stories that can be shared? What actions should we take to be better prepared for future extreme events? What steps can we take to mitigate these events through climate change action?

  • How to do rapid situation appraisal, options assessment and program design?
  • Incident management and disaster recovery: what lessons can we take away to better prepare for next time?
  • Emergency and drought-response demand management, what are the best practices? 
  • Living in a floodplain - what are the options and actions that we can take?
  • What are the new approaches to infrastructure planning in light of fire, flood and sea level rise impacts?
  • Planning for climate change changes to wastewater, what does it mean for sewers and treatment? 
  • What skills of the future have these extreme events highlighted that the water sector needs?
  • What digital tools can we use now to better plan for future climatic challenges?
  • What actions can the water sector take to improve flooding resilience? 
  • What lessons can we learn from other industries or countries to improve our services and approaches to mitigate climate change impacts?
  • How can we use First Nation knowledge to improve extreme event responses?
  • How is the water sector supporting advancements and extending beyond best practice in extreme event management? How do we move beyond response and recovery?

Cities, towns, catchments and basins around the world are increasingly facing water availability challenges. To confront these issues, take action and build resilience to climate change, there is a need to learn from the experiences of others, transform the ways we work together, and develop new approaches to plan and manage water systems and water resources. 

  • Adaptive planning to deliver water for people and the environment 
  • Long term, adaptive, integrated planning for water security and resilience to extreme events
  • From planning to implementation - action for a resilient water future
  • Risk identification, monitoring, evaluation performance assessment and review 
  • Ensuring resilience outcomes for all – equity and equality in the pursuit of water security
  • Total water cycle management solutions
  • Integrating town water solutions within river basin, stormwater and groundwater management 
  • Transforming the water cycle to recycle and reuse
  • Communication and public engagement 
  • Water efficiency – from emergency drought response to long-term water security
  • Water efficiency targets
  • Governance and regulatory challenges
  • The role of digital solutions in resilience and water security
  • Best practices from overseas: what can Australia learn from others? 
    • How does Australia compare to other developed countries in terms of water security and innovation potential, are there opportunities to learn from other countries?
    • What are the major water security challenges facing developing countries (i.e. the Pacific) and how are they being addressed?

There are many lifestyle benefits to living in rural, remote and regional areas however the provision of water, drainage and sanitation services in these areas can have some additional challenges and opportunities for action. Beyond just the provision of water and sanitation services, water management in rural, remote and regional areas often intersects with agriculture, viticulture, the mining sector and ecosystem services. As water crosses boundaries, borders and industries what action is being taken for a more collaborative future that ensures a thriving rural, remote & regional Australia? How are the impacts of current environmental pressures being addressed with an ever growing list of competing priorities to ensure resilience for future generations.

  • Climate impacts and innovative solutions to addressing impacts on quantity and quality
  • Enabling climate smart agriculture
  • Ecosystem outcomes from the management and delivery of rural, remote and regional water services
  • Improved regulation of water allocation 
  • Environmental water and its role in long-term river system health
  • Water for liveability in regional towns 
  • Provision of safe, reliable sewerage to unsewered communities 
  • Remote operational monitoring and control, data acquisition and analysis
  • Staffing and managing remote, rural and regional areas 
  • Adaptive approaches to the provision of services in rural, remote and regional areas 
  • Attracting and retaining talent in regional areas 
  • Regenerative agricultural approaches to water resource management 
  • Water efficiency - digital tools and education drivers
  • Cross border investment challenges and alignment with State and Federal Government  
  • Water storage and groundwater use 
  • How is the Australian and international community supporting remote and rural communities within developing countries to achieve access to safe water supplies in a cost-effective manner?

Each year we get a few submissions that don't quite fit under any of the sub-themes, which is why we've come up with a Wildcard category. It's submissions like these that remind us of the need to think outside the box to solve our water challenges.