UNSW-GWI researchers from the faculties of Arts and Social Science and Engineering are collaborating with a non-profit organisation, Z-NET Uralla, to address water security for the Uralla Shire through an extensive community consultation process.

The project, titled Uralla – Let’s Talk About Water, is funded by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment under an Increasing Resilience to Climate Change community grant. In collaboration with the Uralla Shire Council, the project will seek to understand community perceptions about possible approaches to improved water security, including the potential for utilising recycled water, and to provide the Council with a blueprint for the way forward.

The Z-NET Uralla team (Carol Shantal, ZNET Vice President and Sandra Eady, ZNET President behind the camera) meeting with Stuart and Matthew to discuss project plans

The Uralla Shire has recently experienced its driest period since rainfall records commenced in the late 1800s, putting enormous pressure on local water supplies. Dr Sandra Eady, President of Z-NET Uralla, says that the changing climate will only see these issues worsen in future, and that it is crucial to engage properly with the community before deciding which path to take.

“We must urgently build a community consensus on how to transition to a more secure water supply,” says Dr Eady.

“The beauty of the Uralla – Let’s Talk About Water project is that we are enabling our community to understand and acknowledge the problem, and giving them the opportunity to have their voices heard so that future actions taken by our Council will have the critical support of the community.”

UNSW’s input to the project will be led by Prof Stuart Khan, water treatment and quality expert in the UNSW School of Civil and Environmental Engineering; and Prof Matthew Kearnes, a specialist community participation based in the Environment and Society Group, UNSW School of Humanities and Languages. Prof Khan and Prof Kearnes will lead technical workshops for local government stakeholders, develop and supervise related student projects and design and deliver an innovative the community engagement process.

Prof Kearnes emphasised that, “while there are many different approaches that may help to increase Uralla’s water security, it will be crucial that they are informed by and reflect broad community values.”

The project will commence in July 2020, with the engagement process running through 2020 and 2021.