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Reimagining our Urban Waterways: Environment Exchange

The Conservation Council hosted another Environment Exchange on Thursday, July 30th on the topic of ‘reimagining our urban waterways’. Guest speakers Dr Fiona Dyer, Kate Harriden and Plaxy McCulloch each provided interesting insights into how we currently perceive and use waterways, Indigenous management and perspectives, the challenges associated with our current water systems and ways we can improve water quality and management in the ACT and beyond

The event attracted a large crowd, with 71 participants in total attending the online event. 

Fiona opened the discussion by acknowledging that changing land use has had significant impacts on the landscape and its water channels. She discussed how changing water flows have two primary principles; firstly-  to protect life and property and; secondly- to protect downstream ecosystems. She then touched on the challenges facing urban water systems, including the impacts of a changing climate and growing populations. 

Kate then explored stormwater as an intellectual construct. She discussed how Indigenous perspectives of water are largely centred around the interconnectedness of water cycles and systems with the landscape. With many waterways in the ACT composing of concrete, Kate went on to explore how natural based solutions have a role within our urban systems – and that reintegrating natural systems into our waterways will also help to re-establish Indigenous relationships with water systems. 

Finally, Plaxy took the floor to demonstrate how the ACT is regenerating our local waterways, including through the inclusion of newly constructed ponds and wetlands. Plaxy also dissected the education and behaviour program, H20K Program, which is running to improve local stormwater knowledge and behaviours. Her research demonstrated that the community can play a key role in protecting and improving stormwater quality.

We were also fortunate to hear from Conservation Council board member Ian Falconer, who shared his insights into urban water issues and use of potable water. 

Following the presentations, attendees had the opportunity to quiz panel members on their knowledge, sparking interesting discussions around implementing “small scale” projects into urban areas and improving water quality through education. 

A key message was that we need to demonstrate and practice ‘Yindyamarra’ when managing water assets – that being a way of life that is slow, gentle and respectful. In particular, we need to decolonise how we manage and use water, and be bold in trialling new ways of thinking. A few other key messages were that the ACT community can play an active role in improving water outcomes, and that many solutions to urban water challenges are not straightforward and will require collective commitment by various stakeholders. 

We would like to thank everyone who supported the Conservation Council and attended our online event, with special thanks to Fiona, Kate and Plaxy for contributing your time and expertise to the event.

If you missed it, you can watch the event below.

To keep up to date with the Conservation Council’s future events, please visit our website or keep an eye out on our Facebook and Twitter.