US study tour gives new water experience

Friday 5 October, 2018

Rosalind MartinWater management, agriculture, and communicating during flood, fire and drought – it was a packed itinerary for Laurie Gleeson Development Award winner Rosalind Martin during her study trip to California.

Rosalind is a Water Resource Officer at Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) and was the 2017 recipient of the highly-regarded award, which offers $5000 to a water industry professional to undertake a professional development project.

The award is given by the Institute of Water Administration and is sponsored by Stantec and Russell Kennedy Lawyers.

She used the money for a two-week study tour to the US in March 2018, predominantly spending time in California.

The itinerary included the California Department of Water Resources, the National Weather Service, Oroville Dam Operations, Yuba County Water Agency, U.S Army Corps of Engineers and the California-Nevada River Forecast Centre.

A highlight was the Water Education Foundation Central Valley Tour, with 23 speakers and 18 locations over three days. The tour took in the middle section of California, between Sacramento and the Los Angeles Basin – a productive and well-irrigated region that was once arid and dry.

“The three-day tour down the Central Valley was really interesting in terms of seeing an area that’s similar to the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District,” she said. 

“The situation in California is quite similar to Victoria – agriculture is a large industry in that area and they have extreme weather events such as droughts, fire and flood, just like we do.

“It was really valuable to learn about what they do and how they manage water.” 

Rosalind also visited the United States Geological Survey Earthquake Centre, where scientists study the landscape of the country, its natural resources, and the natural hazards that threaten it.

“They are developing new programs on how they communicate with the community during natural disasters, including an early warning system that aims to send a text message to 22 million people within five to 70 seconds of an earthquake,” she said.

Now it’s about sharing what she has learned – Rosalind has been giving presentations within GMW and has some external presentations coming up as well.

“Some of the information I learned would be really good to apply in the Victorian water industry, if we’re able to – hopefully I’ll be able to get the learnings out into the industry,” she said.

Organising the study tour was a big job, and Rosalind said it was a great opportunity for professional development.

“I got a lot of out of it professionally, so think about what you’d like to get out of it for yourself,” she said.

“That side of the award was bigger than I initially thought it would be – organising my trip involved a lot of cold calling and cold emailing, and walking into massive government organisations and asking for someone’s time. It was really good.”

Rosalind is thankful to the government agencies, experts and scientists that took the time to meet with her and share their knowledge, and said the information she was able to bring home was invaluable.

“If someone asks for your help, think about what you can do for them – without people saying ‘yes’ when I asked, I wouldn’t have learned nearly as much as I did,” she said.

“I met with some pretty high-level people who gave me their time. And for anyone looking to do something similar, don’t be intimidated to ask people like that – you might be surprised who says yes.” 

About Laurie Gleeson

Laurie Gleeson was Managing Director of Goulburn Valley Water for 28 years from 1980 to 2008. A keen advocate for reform, efficiency and high standards of customer service, Laurie played an active role in enhancing the performance of the water sector.

Laurie was a strong supporter of the IWA and the role it plays in contributing to professional development and collaboration in the Victorian Water Industry. He was a Past President and Member of the Executive Council of the Institute. In honour of Laurie Gleeson the IWA offers a $5000 grant each year for the winner to undertake a project of their choice.