eFlash #571

eFlash #571

eFlash #571
Date: 18-Jul-2023

Information for Water Industry Managers and Practitioners in the Queensland Water Industry


Message from new CEO Dr Georgina Davis | qldwater Staff Announcements | Latest Snapshot Report Released | Education, Employment and Training Committee Inquiry into VET | ACCC National Consumer Congress | Temporary Authorities are Now Available | The Urban Water Sector, Overseas | Proposed Occupational Limits for Cl and H2S | Review of the Electrical Safety Act 2002 | WSR Drinking Water Regulation Workshop | AWA QLD Water Awards | Water Sensitive Urban Design Event 


1. Message from new CEO Dr Georgina Davis

Over the past month I have had the privilege of engaging with more of our members to hear the concerns and aspirations for the sector. The heart of our purpose is to represent the interests of members and to promote technical advice and consistency in the promotion of safe, secure and sustainable urban water services. I would like to reiterate our commitment to listening to all our members and ensuring that our policy initiatives are comprehensive, addressing effectively both core industry issues and emerging policy matters through thoughtful development processes; so often fostered by our advisory and expert panels comprised by our members. 

Addressing the core issues are essential for equipping our industry with the knowledge and tools to navigate the increasingly complex regulatory environment, while keeping on top of an ever-evolving business and policy landscape by assisting our members to manage the emerging risks and opportunities.

To be an effective and trusted advocate for the sector, we need to be successfully contributing to advocacy and policy development on both the critical and a broad range of policies affecting the urban water sector. Just in the past few weeks, the Directorate has provided numerous detailed correspondence including submissions on key industry issues and directly advocating at various forums.

Our policy process has several key components to ensure a balanced and coordinated approach including but not limited to:

  • Open dialogue with members across our channels (including at events, webinars, and through on-line communication platforms such as Zoho), which allows us to be responsive to issues as they emerge and facilitate the sharing of information;
  • A Skills and Workforce Survey every two years which allows members to share their workforce and skilling experiences, ensuring that the Water Skills Partnership continues to address the critical issues in workforce planning and workforce development and in curating industry-specific solutions. The Urban Water Industry Workforce Snapshot Composition Report featuring the 2022 skills survey results is now available;
  • Engagement with the SPG which ensures we are aware of critical matters and have strategic insight from the sector, allowing us to prioritise actions for the Directorate and its resources;
  • QWRAP facilitating knowledge of regional-specific issues and opportunities, building a focused community of practice for implementing solutions and specific projects;
  • Directorate-led industry advisory and expert panels such as SWEAP which provides relevant regulatory and policy updates on environmental matters and prioritises action workstreams accordingly; 
  • The Annual Forum, which provides a formal process to review and set our policy priorities for the year ahead.  I urge all members to register and ensure that you are engaging with the team at the Forum, particularly on the 7 September, which will be (and has a tradition of being) our strategy development day and barometer for industry concerns. Registration for the qldwater Annual Forum is now open.

2. qldwater Staff Announcements 

Last month I provided an update that Linda Roberts, Director Innovation Partnerships, has advised that she was not renewing her employment contract with qldwater due to personal circumstances. Linda is a pivotal member of the qldwater team and she has made a significant contribution both to the organisation and our members, particularly those in the Queensland Water Regional Alliance Program (QWRAP). 

Following an inclusive recruitment process, it is with great delight that I wish to announce the appointment of Mr David Wiskar to the Director role. David will be known to many across the urban water sector given his extensive career working at Executive Level in water utilities and Local and State Governments in Queensland and the Northern Territory.  

David has been involved with qldwater since its inception as a member, the Chair of the Technical Reference Group and, more recently, as a funding partner in his role with the Queensland Government. He has a strong connection to the mission of the Directorate and in providing support to all communities and stakeholders in the delivery of essential urban water services.  

David commences with qldwater on 19 July.  

We urge everyone to welcome David as he ‘hits the floor running’. And we once again wish Linda all the best going forward, and personally thank her for her incredible contribution to the organisation and the qldwater family. 

3. Latest Snapshot Report Released

Since 2010, the Queensland Water Directorate (qldwater) has produced biennial Workforce Composition Snapshot Reports to track trends in skills and training, using data gathered from a representative sample of Queensland urban water service providers and a range of other sources.

The 2022 Snapshot Report is the seventh iteration of the Queensland Urban Water Industry Workforce Composition Snapshot Report. While responding organisations have differed for each reporting period and there may be variability in some results, the sample has consistently maintained a good cross-section of responding utilities of different sizes and geographic variation.

There are currently no national studies which attempt to capture this information, and feedback from industry and government stakeholders has been very positive since the process commenced. While limited in scope, this work provides important information to support broad industry workforce planning and investment in workforce development.

qldwater, through the Water Skills Partnership, intends to continue to improve and publish the report on a biennial basis.

Data gathered for this report was collated in late 2022, with the report drafted and issued in 2023, which marks qldwater’s 20th anniversary.

The latest report, including a snapshot of key workforce indicators, can be downloaded here.


4. Education, Employment and Training Committee Inquiry into VET  

In January 2023, qldwater made a submission to the Queensland Parliament’s Education, Employment and Training Committee on their inquiry into the Delivery of VET in Regional, Rural and Remote Queensland.

On 14 July, qldwater personnel participated in the public hearing providing detailed information and insights on industry-specific challenges directly to the Committee.

5. ACCC National Consumer Congress 

The Queensland Water Directorate attended the ACCCs National Consumer Congress on 15 June. The theme for this year’s event was Bringing the Consumer Voice to Regulatory Action and covered themes from consumer hardship in the current cost of living environment through to disrupting consumer scams in its program.

While much of the focus on cost-of-living pressures was around electricity and telco bills, advocate and consumer stories discussed pressures associated with other bills including water. Note was also made that water is often a hidden cost to some of the most vulnerable in the community – often those renting.

The affordability of essential services is an important issue, and the profile of affordability is changing. Opportunities to support affordability through informing consumers to make better decisions and providing schemes that support the different forms of vulnerability in our community are critical.  

6. Temporary Authorities are Now Available

A reminder that Temporary Authorities are a new function under the Environmental Protection Act 1994. A temporary authority to conduct an environmentally relevant activity can only be issued under certain emergency situations. These include a declared public health emergency, a declared disaster situation, a biosecurity event under emergency order and several other events. A temporary authority can be granted for a maximum period of 4 months. 

For more information on the range of emergency situations and the application requirements please go to Business Queensland and refer to the new temporary authority application form (ESR/2023/6428).

7. The Urban Water Sector, Overseas 

The Directorate notes several developments for the urban water sector overseas. In this eFlash, we highlight the US and UK. 

Firstly, the new U.S. bill to protect the water and wastewater industry from (PFAS) liability claims. The Bill acknowledges that water agencies are passive receivers of PFAS. PFAS enter treatment and collections systems through numerous sources. On May 3, 2023, U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis introduced the “Water Systems PFAS Liability Protection Act.” This bill will provide an exemption for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater agencies, including contracted services providers, from legal liability under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) for the release of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) into the environment.

Without the proposed liability exemption, a water agency could potentially be pulled into an enforcement action taken against a polluter, such as a PFAS manufacturer or industrial user. Such actions could lead to extensive unwarranted and misapplied legal and financial burdens for water agencies and their ratepayers.

The Water Systems PFAS Liability Protection Act is part of a series of five bills, each of which is designed to protect specific industries (including landfill and composters) from unintended liability or unintended costs from PFAS accumulation and treatment. Links as below:

  • The Agriculture PFAS Liability Protection Act (S. 1427).
  • The Resource Management PFAS Liability Protection Act (S. 1429).
  • The Water Systems PFAS Liability Protection Act (S. 1430).
  • The Fire Suppression PFAS Liability Protection Act (S. 1432).
  • The Airports PFAS Liability Protection Act (S. 1433).

The legislation, copies of which are available on Lummis’ website, was referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. All five of the bills are co-sponsored by seven Republican senators, all of whom serve on the Environment and Public Works Committee.

The Bills are in response to the US EPA adding PFAS etc in 2022 to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.

And to those who may not be following the situation in the UK -  In May, Water UK (the industry body for the urban water sector) issued a formal apology for repeated sewage spills and other non-compliance matters which had negatively impacted water quality across the country.  According to the UK’s Environment Agency figures, there were a total of 301,091 sewage spills in 2022, an average of 824 a day. The sector has now committed to invest £10bn this decade to address modernisation of sewers and other infrastructure to reduce overflow incidents.  The investment will also be targeted to construct new facilities to hold surges in rainwater, increased capacity for sewage treatment works, measures to reduce rainfall entering sewers and fixing misconnected pipes from properties.  However, the sustainability and focus of this funding concerns many across the sector. 

In recent weeks, there has also been talk of a temporary renationalisation of Britain’s largest water provider (Thames Water) which supplies over 15 million homes and businesses in London and wider southeast England. Britain privatised its water industry in 1989, since which time, they have accumulated combined debt of £54 billion (equivalent to AU $104 billion). 

8. Proposed Occupational Limits for Cl and H2S 

In August 2021, as part of the review of the Workplace Exposure Standards for 700 chemicals, SWA proposed new lower standards for hydrogen sulphide and chlorine. There are concerns that the new standards will result in significant compliance costs for water businesses, with an uncertain improvement in health outcomes.

qldwater is liaising with the Queensland regulator to understand if there are any specific concerns relating to atmospheric contaminants in Queensland’s water sector. Noting that the Directorate and our members are committed to scientifically robust, evidence-based health and safety guidelines informed by engagement with impacted industries. 


9. Review of the Electrical Safety Act 2002 

In 2021, the Queensland Government commissioned an independent review of the Act to ensure Queensland’s electrical safety laws continue to provide high standards of safety for workers and communities. A total of 83 recommendations were made as part of the comprehensive report into the Act.

The recommendations address issues ranging from the scope of the Act, and coverage of emerging energy generation and storage technologies including solar power and batteries, electric vehicles, hydrogen-based electricity generation, storage technologies, off-grid generation, regulatory, licensing, and supply chain duties reform.  

Read the Review of Queensland’s Electrical Safety Act 2002, Final Report, and the Discussion Paper.

Key issues in these documents consider:

  • electrical safety considerations of new and emerging technologies
  • the changing landscape of electricity and the workforce
  • electrical safety and electric vehicles.

Submissions on the discussion paper can be made until 27 June 2023.  Please do not hesitate to raise any items for the submission with Georgina (gdavis@qldwater.com.au).


  • 19-20 July - WIOA Queensland Conference, USQ, Sunshine Coast  
  • 15 August  - AWA North Queensland Conference, Townsville 
  • 5-7 September - Annual Forum, Toowoomba 
  • 13 September - NSW Water Directorate Annual Forum, Sydney
  • 6 October - qldwater Regional Conference, Mackay
  • 9-10 November - AWA QWater, Brisbane 

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