Learning lessons from the Millennium Drought 2014 California Delegation to Australia: Melbourne and Adelaide
Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent, and between 1997 and 2010 it faced an unprecedented challenge. During what is now called the “Millennium Drought,” lakes and reservoirs turned to dust. Thankfully, the country emerged from the epic dry spell stronger and more water-resilient than ever thanks to policies and actions taken by its people and governments.
In light of California’s current water crisis, select TreePeople staff, including founder and president Andy Lipkis, embarked on a Drought Solutions Delegation to Australia, cohosted by TreePeople and The Energy Coalition. Joined by an assemblage of top officials from California and the Los Angeles region, they traveled to Australia to learn relevant models, ideas, and solutions to bring back home to better prepare L.A. to get through our short-term drought emergency and to prepare for the long-term drier climate to come. The teachings are exactly what the public is looking for—28 percent of Californians now consider water and the drought to be the “most important” issue facing the state.
Delegation Trip Roundup
Here are some highlights, and be sure to follow TreePeople for updates on more solutions when the delegation returns:
TreePeople President Andy Lipkis couldn’t contain his excitement about the tour as demonstrated by the selfie he snapped from the plane and his vlog where he shares plans for the delegation and the valuable Australian drought strategies they hope to bring back home.
Aussie press also picked up on the delegation’s presence. ABC News 24 interviewed one of the team’s experts, Nancy Sutley, Chief Sustainability and Economic Development Officer of L.A.’s Department of Water and Power on California’s challenges and the parallels to the Millennium Drought.
While at the event, Lessons from the Millennium Drought, delegates attended a welcome reception hosted by the City of Melbourne at the beautiful City Town Hall. The city presented key drought response strategies and led delegates on a walking tour that highlighted some of Melbourne’s innovative stormwater capture and reuse, Water Sensitive Urban Design, and “sewer mining” projects. Delegates also attended a few sessions at the Water Sensitive Cities Conference to hear about how cutting-edge scientific research is informing both policy and individual projects throughout Victoria.
Later, delegates attended discussions of collaboration, target-setting, and emotional connections around how water is managed. They learned about how the Office of Living Victoria is revolutionizing the way water is managed in the territory, and how water corporations established targets during the drought aimed at reducing per capita water use. Attendees were also able to visit the City of Melbourne and U.S. Consulate where Melbourne’s Lord Mayor and a panel of Australian and California water leaders gave advice on how California can best address its current drought. The Lord Mayor also gave us a shout out on Twitter!
Delegates visited the Melbourne Zoo, where they had an opportunity to see native flora and fauna, and also observe the innovative water collection and recycling system the zoo employs to significantly reduce its water consumption. They toured a watershed scale restoration project at Little Stringybark Creek showing how numerous stormwater capture and reuse strategies can, together, improve stream health, increase water supply, and improve water quality.
More to come from Down Under
TreePeople has a long history of turning to Australia for models on managing water, and we have learned from Australia’s experiences for over 20 years. In 2012, we conducted a study tour and reported on “Lessons from the Land of Oz.” Now that this Delegation is wrapping up, we look forward to sharing our findings far and wide to shepherd in a climate resilient, sustainable L.A. with a little help from our friends in Australia.