AUSTRALIA LIVING WITH FLOODS was the theme of the first edition of the Australia-Netherlands Water Challenge. The theme reflects an important dimension of the approach that Australia and the Netherlands are taking to address water-related challenges, such as floods and droughts, focused on "living with" rather than just "fighting against" water.
In the Netherlands, programs such as the Delta Programme, Room for the River and Building with Nature are driving an important transition that seeks to move beyond traditional flood defenses and find new ways for people to live in harmony with their water environment and create mutual opportunities. Also in Australia, major policy and infrastructure initiatives are underway to increase the country’s flood resilience. The Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry and its extensive recommendations form an important platform on which a new flood management approach is being established.
It is against this background, that a group of Australian and Dutch companies and institutions with extensive water management expertise launched the 1st Australia-Netherlands Water Challenge in 2012, reaching out to almost 1,000 graduate students and young researchers across Australia to propose their innovate solutions.
Launch at Ozwater'12
The Australia-Netherlands Water Challenge was officially announced by H.E. Mr. Willem Andreae, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Australia. The announcement was made at the Ozwater conference and exhibition in Sydney in conjunction with a special workshop organised in partnership between the Dutch water sector and the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management. The event was attended by almost 50 representatives from across the Dutch and Australian water sectors.
Main partner on the Australian side is the International Water Centre in Brisbane, a centre of excellence in water management representing four major academic institutions: University of Queensland, Griffith University, University of Western Australia and Monash University.
Final at International Riversymposium
The 15th International Riversymposium in Melbourne featured final of the first Australia-Netherlands Water Challenge. Five bright Australian students competed in a poster presentation session, showcasing innovative ideas to enhance flood resilience in their country.
It was Kevin Loh, Masters student in Integrated Water Management at the University of Queensland, who was announced winner by jury chair Frank Heemskerk, Executive Board Member of Royal HaskoningDHV.
Kevin’s proposal for a smartphone app that would greatly expedite the handling of insurance claims after a flood event, reducing both psychological and economic damage, was judged to have great potential. Kevin was invited to further develop his app in the Netherlands and was presented a return ticket, sponsored by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
“When asked if I’d like to develop my idea - of course I said “YES!”. I’d never been to Europe, or worked with smartphone applications, or worked with a Dutch company – I was terrified! Fortunately, everyone was very welcoming. I was amazed at the effort they put into making me feel welcome” - Kevin Loh