Rob Vertessy interview — Institutional governance and leadership: learning from the Australian experience

An interview with Rob Vertessey, who currently holds a part-time research Professorship on water security and climate change and lead the Global Change Advisory consultancy for the AWP aimed at sharing the Australian experience dealing with water scarcity through better water information systems, with other nations in the region.

 

In the interview, Rob shares his perspective on leadership in terms of affecting change globally; the model of the Australian model of dealing with water scarcity and how that can be transferred to other countries; his work with the AWP and the HLPW on data initiatives in India and other countries internationally; and the role of young water professionals in the sector

Rob originally trained as a geomorphologist at Monash University, before completing a PhD on the function of large tidal river systems in northern Australia and how they change over time with regards to sediment transport. He then worked in research for 20 years on catchment water balances with the CSIRO, specialising in forest hydrology. He experimented with different methods of conducting water balances across catchments to determine their function.

After this, he moved into CSIRO leadership roles, including Director of the Centre for Catchment Hydrology and later as the Chief of the Land and Water Division. It was in the second role that Australia experienced the Millennium Drought. Thus, Rob contributed to the development of National Water Reform policies through a secondment to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and worked on the National Plan for Water Security. He specifically focused on reforms to improve water information.

These reforms resulted in a new function for the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), which was then implemented as the National Water Information Service and is now called the Australian Water Resources Information Service (AWRIS) . Rob went from implementing this new function of BOM to becoming CEO of the organisation.

Interview topics

  • About Dr Rob Vertessy
  • The journey towards gathering and centralising water information in Australia
  • Rob’s international work with the Australian Water Partnership
  • An example: learning about the ‘boundary conditions’ that limit reform in India
  • Thoughts on how other countries might set up water information institutions
  • Aspects that different countries share in common
  • Advice to professionals who may wish to work internationally=
  • Insights to leadership in science organisations, and tips for young water professionals

Tell us a bit about your background and your previous work leading up to what you do today.

For my first degree I trained as a geomorphologist, at Monash University in Victoria, and for my PhD studies, I was based at the Australian National University in Canberra. My PhD was all about large tidal river systems in Northern Australia, understanding how they function, how they change over time, how they transport sediment and the like. There was a huge knowledge gap about how those northern rivers function. It was an exciting experience, with very intensive fieldwork for quite a few years, in spectacular and dangerous places — full of crocodiles.

After that I spent 20 years working in CSIRO, Australia’s national science organisation, first chiefly as a Research Hydrologist exploring water balances. I specialised in forest hydrology but also worked across different types of systems, and I really focused on experimentation in catchments, making water balance measurements and then modelling how those catchments were functioning. About halfway through my career at CSIRO, I started getting into leadership and executive leadership positions. I became the Director of the Cooperative Research Centre for Catchment Hydrology, and later the Chief of CSIRO’s Land and Water Division.

Then, during Australia’s major drought, there was a great sense of panic around the country about how we were going to get through this ‘Millennium Drought’. I was seconded to the federal government Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to contribute to the development of some national water reform policies. I spent four months there, working on the National Plan for Water Security, specifically to do with reforms around water information. That ultimately resulted in a new function for the Australian Bureau of Meteorology to undertake a National Water Information Service. When that policy was enacted, I joined the Bureau to implement it in a ten-year implementation program, and after the first five years, I became the CEO of the Bureau. I stayed in that role for almost five years, until semi-retirement.

Nowadays I do two things: research on water security and climate change through a Research Professorship at the University of Melbourne, part-time; and consulting work, most of which have been framed around Australian Water Partnership (AWP) activity overseas, which has enabled me to come full circle, in a way.

What led to the idea of gathering and centralising water information? What were the main factors in achieving success?

Through much of my research career, I was utterly frustrated by the lack of good reliable data on our water situation in Australia. If you are a modeller and you’re trying to model water balances, you are constantly chasing down different shreds of data that are held by different agencies. In Australia, it’s literally over 100 agencies, probably closer to 170 in fact. Often, they wouldn’t give us the information, which was a problem.

We are seeing this also in many other parts of the world.

One can ask: “Why bother to pull this data together?”. The answer is that, quite apart from its value to scientists, water information that people have gathered has very great utility value when you can ‘repurpose’ it, into services to help people make decisions. In the Bureau of Meteorology, we spent a lot of time thinking through how to do that, because we understood that that was the way to garner support from the end-user community. And if you have the end-user community support then you, by definition, have got the Government’s support as well.

A surprising number of countries that are thinking about getting their data in order are not thinking enough about that end-use. They are not giving attention to how they are going to use the information to make a difference. Rather, they are thinking about the technical issues, such as: Where’s the data? How do we get it? What kind of technology do we use to pull it all together?

An important first step in achieving our national water information service was the legislative reform, the regulatory framework that Australia put in place. In fact, many collaborative, negotiating-type of approaches had been tried in the years prior to these reforms, to try and get the states pulling in the same direction, but they’d not succeeded. For the people that own the data, who really only want it for their own business interests, there was very little incentive to provide it to someone else for the ‘national good’. There were a few enlightened souls of course, but most people were reluctant to participate in anything which added to the burden of their day jobs. Some jurisdictions and some organisations did not want to be involved at all. They just wanted to hold onto their data – maybe they were embarrassed about their quality of it. There could have been all kinds of reasons.

To achieve a radical break-through, I proposed that there should be firm legislation, but it couldn’t be just a ‘stick’ – a heavy-handed approach with an Act. We needed it to be balanced with a ‘carrot’, and the carrot was a major funding program, which the Bureau administered on behalf of the Government.

It was $80 million, a lot of money, and that was passed out to all the data owners, to help them do their jobs better, to make better primary measurements and also to help them build technologies to send the data to the Bureau in a way that was not burdensome for them. In other words, it was to automate the process. This program has been a tremendous success.

From all of this, I realised that fundamentally everyone’s chief concern is that they lack the resource capability to actually help. Most of these organisations have had their funding and staffing levels reduced over the years. They find it difficult to keep adding new tasks and responsibilities on top of their day to day jobs. So, by finding a way to help them do their jobs better and more efficiently, we were able to free people up to want to help.

Tell us about the international work you’ve been doing with the Australian Water Partnership.

Through the opportunity to work with AWP, I’ve had five missions abroad in 2017. I’ve been to Iran and Jordan, and to India, Pakistan and most recently Lao. They all, of course, are different, with different challenges. I have gone there generally to talk about my speciality area: how water information can be used by governments to help them navigate the often-diabolical imbalances between water supply and water demand.

The first four of those countries are undergoing acute water scarcity at the moment, partly because they are in difficult hydro-climates, and also partly because they don’t have the appropriate policy and governance structures to limit water extractions. So water information has turned out to be an absolutely fundamental requirement.

If you are going to balance your water supplies and demand, you need good data and answers to questions such as: Where’s the water coming from? Where is it? What’s its supply trajectory in the future going to look like? Where are the demands? How’s it being utilised? And so on. Yet most of these countries that have these problems have rather poor water information arrangements. Even though Australia was in a similar situation a few years ago, we were never quite as badly off as these countries. Some of them lack even fundamental monitoring networks.

Australia may still not be doing everything right, and still making lots of mistakes, but we have some wisdom that we can share. I’m finding that there’s a great appetite for that abroad, in the countries I’ve visited. The people are really motivated to improve their arrangements.

I’m also finding it fascinating to work through the different ‘boundary conditions’ in these countries, to work out how progress can be made. You can’t just bring in the Australian model, because we’ve got completely different boundary conditions – that is, the (for example) political, or cultural or geographical conditions that limit what can be done. So understanding those boundary conditions in-country, and working with them and their particular constraints is something I find really interesting.

As an example, the Water Guide which AWP published in 2017 focuses on water scarcity, but when we started talking about it in Laos, while they liked the ideas at first, it turned out to be framed in a way that was not really relevant to their situation. There is tremendous opportunity to broaden and deepen the value of Water Guide by considering other types of use cases, not just water scarcity.

Can you give an example of any situations you’ve seen overseas?

Well, each country is different and has different situations that it has to deal with. India offers some interesting illustrations.

For example, in India, there is a strong built-in reluctance to share information between the Indian States and the State and the Federal Governments. It is an important cultural problem that needs to be surmounted in the context of water information, Yet, many people there are trying to address water information problems by thinking about them only as related to information systems.

It seems to me that to make substantial long-term progress in India, to make real inroads there, it will be essential to prove the ‘value proposition’. That is, how everyone’s lives can be enriched by better water information and sharing what is available.

We’ve certainly proved that here in Australia. We’ve been able to create services that bring real economic value. In fact, already although the water information program here has only just completed the ten-year implementation phase, it is already returning a cost-benefit of somewhere between 3 and 8. And that return on investment is only going to be improving in the future.

In India, I think it’s very important to go back to basics to talk about the inherent value proposition, to conceive the services which will have real appeal to the stakeholders, the owners of the information, and to incentivise them to participate, to think through policy instruments that could help. They might be partly regulatory, they might be partly financial. Again, many agencies have frustrating limitations on their resources. Incentivising them to cooperate may sometimes just take money, for instance.

I think it’s important for India to think deeply about, and work through, those non-technical-design matters first. I think strong institutions are absolutely vital in this, particularly where there are complex inter-jurisdiction or inter-agency arrangements. It’s essential that someone stands up and takes on the leadership … and that they are properly resourced to do so, and can manage the conversations and can devote themselves to creating the ‘X-factor’ out of what is currently available as assets.

In other words, I believe they need to create an institution with a mandate and a rationale to address the broader good of the country, of the sector, of the region, for whatever function you are talking about. However, even though that approach succeeded here, it takes a large amount of money — and it might not work as a new institution. Australia gave that function to a long pre-existing institution, the Bureau of Meteorology.

I have made quite a point of this idea recently in guidelines I have written for the High-Level Panel on Water, to be released early in 2018. There is a chapter on institutions and on how you go about thinking through what their mandates are, and how you go about presenting propositions to the government — considering how to create new institutions to serve these purposes.

That was the magic of the Australian formula and I think the principle is generic and is going to apply wherever you go — because why should a particular single agency with a very discrete set of business objectives and mandates bother itself about other people’s concerns? That’s the essential problem in a way.

How might other countries set up their own water information institutions with the resources, authority and ability to create the necessary shared vision?

As I said, Australia did not create a new institution: we gave the function to a pre-existing institution, the Bureau of Meteorology, and I think that could be a good approach for a country — i.e. to consider augmenting its national weather service.

When you look at all the national weather services around the world, in many countries (though far from all countries) the weather service already has some hydrologic functions. Many national weather services are responsible for flood forecasting, for instance. Not many are responsible for water resource information roles, but I would argue that they are fit for purpose for that task. Even in Australia, we needed to bring a whole new cadre of water resources specialists into the Bureau of Meteorology to do this job properly.

Weather services have many characteristics that I think are beneficial for this type of role. First of all, they’re very independent; they are not strong ‘policy shops’, for instance. Also, they tend not to be driving a particular policy agenda, and they are generally respected for their technical prowess.

They have a lot of common infrastructure, including high-performance computers, databases, communications systems. They have respected qualifications in measuring things because they are running weather station networks and similar equipment. And weather services are stable organisations because the information they provide is so critical and there is a sovereign requirement to have that kind of information at hand. That is what you need for long-term environmental monitoring of any kind.

I believe that weather services can do much more for most countries than they are doing. In our Bureau, as CEO, I was trying to reimagine the organisation as a broad-based environmental intelligence agency, rather than just a weather service. Our Bureau does oceans monitoring, space weather monitoring, long-term climate change and other measurements, as well as the water information and the weather. And also it has a natural inclination to interface with the public.

In short, you find that weather services have many of the characteristics that are needed for the water information tasks, which is why the Australian Government assigned water information as an adjunct function to the Bureau. It has now been made a permanent function, which is fabulous.

In similar countries I’ve visited, I’ve seen similar opportunities present themselves with the weather services as well. So, I would exhort most people to start there and explore that opportunity.

Tell us more about your work with AWP, especially finding out how to engage productively and supportively for India.

The way the AWP has initiated a Country Strategy for every partnership that they have overseas is, I think, very important because countries have different motivations, or constraints – ‘boundary conditions’.

India is the first country where the AWP has sought to develop a Country Strategy, and I have had a go at producing one (it’s still work-in-progress) by doing an extensive set of interviews with around 30 people who had been working in India for AWP or, in a few cases, independently of AWP. My aim was to get a sense of their rich body of experience gained over the last few years.

Initially, the draft just sets down the main things to think about in India. It’s clear they have a series of diabolical water challenges: everything from WASH and water quality problems to water scarcity and flooding. You don’t have to look far for a problem to focus on, but working out how to interface with them and finding a productive opportunity in a sea of opportunity, that’s a different thing. And that’s what the Country Strategy tries to do.

There are a few things we need to be mindful of in India.

  • First, trying to understand the dynamic between States and Central Government agencies is very, very important when it comes to water reform. It’s a complex federation, like Australia but much more complex. It’s got some 30 objects rather than six or seven. Of course, it’s a vast, giant country with many, many people and thus many institutions as well. So, navigating your way through that maze and working out the productive alliances to work with is very important.
  • Also, although it’s beset by many problems it’s also a highly capable country. It has nuclear power, a space race. They have a very strong technical capability, and in the water sector as well. And so working out how we can add value to that is a very important consideration.
  • Third, they have an unhappy colonial history and therefore they don’t react well to colonist-type mentalities in people coming into their country and telling them how to do things. I have heard of a number of cases that have misfired, where an Australian team went in heavy-handed to try and sell an approach that the Indian people did not want. So working out a way in which to work with them, help them to help themselves, is a really important thing I discovered.
  • Fourth, there is a lot of sensitivity to carpet-bagging. India’s a massive country and its water sector is huge. It will be spending literally trillions of dollars on water in the next 50 years. And many countries look at this as a kind of business opportunity, and they are in India because of commercial interests. However, when you speak to our people in the federal government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), you find that although they would like to see improved trade between India and Australia, they are approaching India’s water issues from a water-diplomacy point of view. The attitude at DFAT is: ‘Look we’ve got some interesting and useful skills in this area, and they’ve got some big problems. It would be really good for our bilateral relationship if we could find a way to help them meaningfully.’

The AWP approach of building a Country Strategy, and going to India with an authentic long-term, patient and honest approach, is a really good thing to be doing. We are not setting up expectations of any great commercial return. Anyway, it is very hard doing business in India.

And another thing I’ve learnt through the AWP interviews is that, although India has many deep problems – with terrible filth and some terrible WASH issues and they are way behind on their Sustainable Development Goals – they are not an aid country. So Australia cannot go there with an aid mentality.

In short, finding a way to interface with them that is authentic and resonates with them is the key, and the Country Strategy offers helpful viewpoints for that.

It has been a master-stroke, I think, to appoint a person on the ground in India, ‘VJ’. He’s building a consistent relationship for AWP there. VJ is a guy who has tremendous networks and experience. Virtually every person that I interviewed thought that it was fabulous that AWP has appointed this person. I’m sure that is going to yield a lot of fruit.

Personally, I find working in India to be intensely interesting. It’s a privilege and an honour to go into a country and learn about it and meet fabulous smart people in agencies and discover what their issues are and find a way to help.

Have you seen any commonalities in terms of water data among the countries you have worked in?

In virtually all the situations I’ve gone into, I have learnt that it’s been very hard for these countries to execute water reform in a general sense because they lack a compelling narrative around their most urgent issues – what I might call, for want of a better term, the ‘burning platform situation’. You speak to technical specialists and they’ll quickly explain how they are facing a ‘cliff’ at some point in the near future, and yet that sense of urgency or crisis is not being explained to the Minister nor the public in ways compelling enough for them to understand it and embrace it. All these specialists crave a solution to this problem, and water information turns out to be one of the magic ingredients.

You certainly also need individuals with great communication prowess, but the common point is the need to get their water information assets working for them, to catalyse change. That is one reason why they are all interested in trying to reform their water information.

I like to work with their governments and senior officials to start them thinking more about how a solution can be a kind of business proposition. That’s the key, quite apart from having generic technical-focused conversations on how to get data sorted out.

Do you have any message for people who might be interested in doing similar work overseas?

It is apparent to me that the water diplomacy we have here is a great strategic asset for Australia. We have some fabulous institutions and individuals and organisations. If they look outwards to the rest of the world where there are some, frankly, existential problems, I think we can bring a lot of credit to Australia.

The rest of the world has far more acute water problems than the ones we have in Australia, and those countries’ problems could manifest into serious regional conflicts and humanitarian crises. So I would like to see the Australian water sector motivated to work more with AWP to come and see what they can contribute. Although it’s hard to do business over in these countries, working with AWP and DFAT enables Australian water-people to get out there. I’d really exhort them to do so, for the good of humanity. We are also getting valuable economic returns as well.

Our AWP is a great construct that enables this kind of transition to happen. We are not alone out there. Countries like Holland, France, United States, Germany, they’re out and about and deeply embedded in these countries and they are doing great work. Australia has joined in late, because we have been very inward-focused I suppose – which is probably not a bad thing because we’ve had a few challenges and we’ve sorted many of them out.

Right now I think there is a great opportunity, particularly as climate change bites and population growth continues. The world is so much more connected than it used to be, and there is really a need for us to be out there more. I celebrate what AWP and DFAT are doing.

You have understood not only the challenges facing on-ground organisations but also how to organise practical support for them. Do you currently give leadership training, and do you have any message for young professionals in this area?

At the moment I’m working on developing a training workshop for leadership in science agencies. Science agencies have some interesting characteristics, apart from the features they share in common with any other domain. One particular characteristic of science agencies is they are full of very bright, critical people. To lead those people you need to find ways to engage with them intellectually and win their hearts and their minds. That can be very challenging. A doctrinaire top-down kind of approach simply does not work in those agencies. You have to find ways to engage with them on an authentic level. Through my career, I’ve learnt a lot about how to do that, and I’m now thinking through how to run a new kind of executive leadership course, on that topic and on the many other attributes that you need for success in the public-sector science agencies.

We are led to believe that people in the workplace are motivated mainly by extrinsic factors such as pay and conditions. These are certainly important, no question about it.

However, it’s intrinsic motivators that keep people: the things that matter to their hearts and souls. Scientists, in particular, sacrifice potential material benefits they could get in different roles so they can join a science agency to do research, because of the intellectual stimulation that they get out of it. They derive a great sense of satisfaction out of that process, and that’s why they stay. And so, it’s necessary to understand that as a foundation principle and work with that, in a science agency.

Yes, we are driven to get results and outcomes, but the job of the leader, I think, is to steer these people gently into producing the things that our investors require back from us – effectively, to reconcile these two things. Very early in my research career, I found that I could accomplish ten times more by helping other people do their job better rather than by trying to do it myself. There are individuals that can change the world, but for me, I quickly learnt that it’s much more productive to work in teams and get people working together. Then you can create things that are really special.

For young professionals, I think the magic formula for getting going in a career is always to align yourself with smart and capable people. Find out who the experts are in a particular field: who inspires you; who’s got something to offer. Then put up your hand and ask for some support, and maybe volunteer your time occasionally. That, to my mind, is really the best way. Engage with someone who can give you inroads into your field, into your sector.

Finding a mentor is one way of doing that, whether formally or informally. Every great opportunity I have had in my career was because of someone who gave their time generously.

So, seek out people that have got really something to add, and learn from them, work with them. That’s the best way.

Water information reforms in Australia

There are about 170 government agencies in Australia that collect water data , each with different mandates and business interests. At the national level, the availability of this data is vital for solving water scarcity problems and is much more valuable that individual research items. This is a scenario that exists in many countries.

In the interview, Rob suggests that many countries don’t consider end-users of the data and information is communicated to affect change. Instead, they focus on technical issues. Create financial and policy incentives for the owners of data to collaborate is important for addressing water scarcity, however, overcoming reluctance is not a simple process. Organisations need mechanisms to make them comfortable to share information.

In Australia, a response to overcome resistance to change was needed. This involved legislative reform through the Water Act (2007) as a stick and an AU$80 million government-funded program called the Modernisation and Extension of Hydrological Monitoring Systems Program as a carrot.

How to use leadership principles to motivate scientists

These mechanisms were used to incentivise participation by addressing the primary concerns science agencies that they do not have enough resources to contribute. Rob suggested that ensuring this enables willing contribution.

Rob talked about his role as an executive leader in a science agency:

He suggests that we are conditioned to believe that extrinsic motivators like pay and conditions are the primary motivators for these people. While, important, intrinsic motivators are also essential to provide the intellectual stimulation that drives work satisfaction. He suggests this is necessary to understand as a basic principle when leading scientists who already forgo material benefits to access their work opportunities.

Sharing Australian expertise in water information systems to manage global water scarcity

More recently, in his role with the Australian Water Partnership, Rob has worked on missions to five countries:

  • Iran, where water scarcity had previously reduced Iran’s largest saltwater lake, Lake Urmia, which to 10% of its former size.
  • Jordan, where the AWP is working with the Jordanian government to address water scarcity using the ‘Water Guide’ framework.
  • India, where the Water Industry Alliance and ICE WaRM  are partnering with the Confederation of Indian Industry CII-Triveni Water Institute to address a range of water resource governance, decision support, and water scarcity issues
  • Pakistan, where the AWP and DFAT are working with local partners to address water resource management information systems in light climate change-related security threats in the Indus basin.
  • Laos, where the AWP is supporting work done not only here but other Mekong countries on the connections between water governance and gender including collecting data on how men and women experience water services and resources differently.

Across all these countries contexts and specific challenges, Rob engages in dialogue about his speciality, which is how water information can be better utilised by governments to navigate often diabolical imbalances between water supply and water demand”.

Rob stresses that although Australian is not doing everything right, there was useful wisdom gained through the Australian Water Reform process and there is an appetite for it abroad.

Overcoming resistance to sharing information

In the interview, Rob refers to the Indian experience of built-in resistance to sharing information between the states and federal government agencies as an important cultural problem that needs to be overcome. He has observed that most countries begin by focusing on the information system instead.

However, the heart of the problem is the motivation to share information. He suggests the way to make inroads is to prove value propositions that sharing available water information benefits people’s lives.

Rob and Karen discuss the political will required to overcome complex inter-jurisdiction or inter-agency arrangements, such as trans-boundary water sharing. Karen mentions that the International Watercourses Convention suggests that “cooperation and data sharing is fundamental to building relationships”.

Rob states that strong institutions are the key to this process. In the case of the Australian Water Information reforms, the BOM was given a mandate enough resources to create a dialogue between stakeholders and create the conditions for change. He suggests that this need be a feature for other contexts, as well.

National Weather Services as leading institutions for water information reforms

A key message of the Worldwide Water Initiative that will be released at the World Water Forum in Brazil as outlined in the Worldwide Data Initiative Roadmap of the High Level Panel on Water will have a chapter that outlines how institutional mandates can be transformed into value propositions for information sharing that can be presented to the governments.

For example, the water information reform process that occurred in Australia required political influence and substantial funding and replicating what the BOM did in Australian, may not be successful in other contexts

Rob refers to the Australian example of placing this role with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM)  as an existing national weather service institution. He believes this is a good model for other countries and weather services such as BOM have a useful set of characteristics for taking responsibility for water resource information

  • They tend to be stable organisations
  • They are independent and generally do not drive a policy agenda.
  • They are also respected for their technical capacity.
  • They have the required infrastructure
  • They have established integrity.
  • They have an existing interface with the public

Rob has observed similar potential in the other countries to replicate the broad-based environmental monitoring performed by BOM in Australia, building on weather services to include ocean, space, and climate change monitoring.

AWPs approach: engaging stakeholders in India

Similar to DFAT, the AWP is developing country strategies for each partnership it is involved with. The first AWP Country Strategy for India is still a work in progress and has been informed by a very extensive set of interviews, with people working both with the AWP and independently in India. The draft strategy covers some major issues such as water quality and WASH problems, water scarcity, and flooding. However, the country strategy attempts to look where these problems intersect to specific productive opportunities that match Australia’s strengths.

Rob noted some important features of working in India:

  • The dynamic between the States and the Central Government agencies in India. The country is vast, with a much higher population density than Australia and significantly more institutions.
  • The established technical capacity in India and how to add value to what is already there
  • The low tolerance for colonial mentalities, meaning that collaborative approaches are essential.
  • There high sensitivity to ‘carpet-bagging’ and the challenges with establishing authentic business relationships in India

Water Diplomacy

While DFAT sees improved trade is an objective, it is approached from a water diplomacy perspective. For example, one approach the AWP uses is to have a representative on-the-ground just to build working relationships .

Countries attempting systematic water reforms often struggle because they lack a compelling narrative to achieve them . Technical specialists can easily explain the major problems they will soon face but cannot convey that sense of urgency in a way that a Minister or the public can understand and embrace. He says that all countries struggle with this same problem and crave a solution for it.

He suggests that water information a magic ingredient. This leverage point means moving away from technically focussed communication and moving toward communicating about value propositions. This is how Rob engages with governments and senior officials.

He suggests that water diplomacy is a strategic asset for Australia and many international water management problems are significantly more acute than what is experienced in Australia. They also have the potential to trigger serious regional conflicts and humanitarian crises. He envisages the Australian water sector working with the AWP and DFAT to meet these problems, despite the difficulties doing business in these countries, helped by the relationships these institutions are building. He sees this as an increasingly important endeavour as the impacts of climate change and population increase.

Interview Quotes

This interview and related content was originally part of the Kini Interview Series. Kini is a retired brand of the AWP and IWCAN.

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