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Last week, I had the privilege to attend and present at OzWater, the Australian Water Association’s (AWA) annual conference, along with Kea, the executive director of Rainwater Cambodia (RWC). As well as my presentation, I also was involved in planning and facilitating a workshop, and I was able to see Kea present on some research we did together. I would like to thank EWB, AWA, and RMIT for the financial support that helped Kea and I attend.

On the first day of the conference the AWA WASH Specialist Network ran a workshop about human centred design (HCD). HCD is a problem solving methodology which is used throughout sustainable development which I hope will be brought into the Australian water sector as it becomes more customer focused. Jacqui Bell from EWB was the lead facilitator and she was well support by Josh Isben and Cristiano Carvalho from Sydney Water and water Corporation respectively. During the workshop Jacqui introduced several HCD tools and then groups worked through some real world scenarios from Australia that Josh and Cristiano were involved in. Less people came to the workshop than we had hoped but the intimate nature allowed for each attendee to get a lot out of it. Also thanks to Shona Fitzgerald and Kathryn Silvester for their support planning the workshop.

On the morning of the second day, Kea and I were then invited to a WaterAid breakfast. WaterAid are one of EWB and RWC’s key partners and Rosie Wheen (WaterAid’s new CEO) was very pleased to see Kea again. It was really great to hear Rosie talk about the great work they are doing. She even took the time to recognise the work RWC is doing. It was amazing how interested everyone was to hear about the work Kea is doing in Cambodia.

On the third and final day I presented on some research I did with Casey Furlong as part of my PhD. I spoke about the thirty nine findings from our integrated urban water management planning case studies. I saw quite a few nods from the crowd, which I think means it was received well. It’s always nice to share research with respected colleagues and his was a real thrill for me.

Shortly after my presentation, Kea spoke about research RWC completed with the support of WaterAid. We looked into the effectiveness and sustainability of our current rainwater harvesting program and also identified local perceptions about traditional rainwater harvesting. In sustainable development you often don’t get an opportunity to go back and see how effective your programs have been, so we are very thankful to WaterAid for the funding. With this research we have updated our rainwater tank design, our operations and maintenance training, and hopefully it will be the research underpinning for our future RWH programs. I would also like to thank the other co-authors Khe Longkeat, Emma McKenzie, and Celeste Ward for their contribution.

All in all it was a great week. The highlight for me was how Australian Water professionals recognised and appreciated the amazing work Kea is doing in Cambodia. Almost everyone we work with in Cambodia is also doing amazing work and sacrificing much to improve WASH in Cambodia, so your own work sort of becomes the norm. The recognition showed during the conference made me really proud to know and honoured to be able to support the truly amazing work Kea and RWC does.

Blog post by Lachlan Guthrie