Promoting the sustainable management of water through education
The Australian Water Association (AWA) is an independent, member owned association of 4,000 water practitioners and organisations engaged in all aspects of water management throughout Australia. AWA's mission is to 'promote the sustainable management of water'.
Recognising that water education has a vital role to play within the water industry and community across Australia, the AWA has recently added education to its portfolio of operational areas, and has appointed the author as Education Program Manager for the Association.
After consulting widely across the water and education sectors, and holding an education conference early in 2004, the AWA has drawn up a list of priorities concerning water education. Some of the points with most direct relevance to school leaders and teachers are now described.
The Water Education Network (WEN)
AWA has established a national network of water and education professionals, known as the Water Education Network or WEN. The WEN aims to promote a more cooperative and coordinated approach to water education nationally by bringing together individuals, community organisations, government agencies, industry, teachers, researchers, and other educators and stakeholders.
Participants in the WEN receive a monthly e-newsletter, and access to the network's web page, nationwide network meetings, as well as professional development activities determined by the network. The WEN does not aim to duplicate or replace existing networks. Rather, it will link them together on a national scale to facilitate information sharing, support, networking, professional development opportunities, and to provide resources where they may be needed.
Resources - 'We All Use Water'
As part of AWA's commitment to the education of water and wastewater management, we have produced a suite of educational resources to assist teachers and students to understand the role of water within their environment.
Concentrating on more than water conservation, the We All Use Water Manual* covers water sources, catchments, pathogens, the water treatment plant, sewage treatment plant, onsite systems and effluent management.
The AWA encourages school leaders and teachers to visit local treatment plants and learn about the water industry. Community knowledge and understanding on water and wastewater management can promote discussion about ways that water can be used more sustainably.
Full details of the We All Use Water Manual plus power point presentations, posters and flyers are available from AWA.
Australian Junior Water Prize and Stockholm Junior Water Prize
The Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP) was founded by the Stockholm Water Foundation in 1994, as a complement to the world renowned Stockholm Water Prize. AWA is the national coordinator of the Australian Junior Water Prize (AJWP) contest, the winner of which represents Australia at the international SJWP contest. The AJWP and SJWP will now be run as part of the education program and the WEN, due to its relevance with participants in the network.
The AJWP and SJWP seek to raise young individuals' engagement in the common water environment, on local as well as global levels. The aim is to support young students' interest in water conservation, water protection and water resources management. The contestants can compete with a practical project in the fields of technology, and the natural and social sciences, using innovative development methods and approaches to solve water problems. It is essential that projects use a research orientated approach, which means that they should use scientifically accepted methodologies for investigation, experimentation, monitoring and reporting the results, including statistical analyses.
Students are given the opportunity to compete with the best of their contemporaries at a State level, and potentially at national and global levels. The students also have the chance to meet others with similar abilities and interests.
The AJWP contest is open to Australian high school students. Contestants are required to provide a written project report, and finalists will need to develop a project display for public exhibition at the AWA Annual Conference. The winner of the national prize will represent Australia in Stockholm. Some States run awards programs where the State winner is then entered into the national water prize competition. In States where an awards program is not run, projects may be put forward for consideration for entry into the national competition.
Other key focus areas
The AWA is also working to
build and operate a water education web portal, useful for water education practitioners, community members and school pupils, mindful of the need to keep people connected to their local water utility wherever possible.
develop and maintain a database of water education resources, accessible on the web portal, to minimise the risk of duplication of effort.
provide ongoing national coordination and promotion for National Water Week.
coordinate an awards program to raise the profile of water, industry careers and the important role of coordinators. It extends beyond the Australian Junior Water Prize and includes, for example, the Undergraduate Water Prize.
coordinate conferences and events including a major biennial water education conference and several regional events to provide networking and professional development opportunities for water educators and stakeholders.
develop consistent, positive terminology to ensure uniformity, improved understanding and a positive approach to water quality. This will take the form of a glossary of terms or, if support warrants it, a dictionary of Australian water terms.
where specifically agreed as a need, take responsibility for developing and disseminating specific education resources, extending beyond 'We all use water', for community, school, vocational and professional education.
The WEN e-news, details of upcoming network meetings and other information about AWA and water education are available on the AWA education page. Alternatively, register with firstname.lastname@example.org by sending an e-mail, including a brief description of your interest in water education. We look forward to hearing from you!
*Curriculum Leadership Special: purchase the We All Use Water Manual for half of the regular price. Instead of $95 pay only $47.50. Please direct all inquiries to Corinne Cheeseman at email@example.com.