Water Online Radio: Solutions And Expertise From Down Under
Water Online Radio welcomes waterAUSTRALIA to WEFTEC and the American water/wastewater market – a fertile market with issues similar to Australia’s. Les Targ and Bob Herbert discuss climate change, water scarcity, water quality, and regulations, and how waterAUSTRALIA innovations work to solve these problems.
Todd Schnick: Good afternoon and welcome back to Water Online Radio, coming to you live from WEFTEC here in New Orleans, Louisiana. I am Todd Schnick joined by my colleague Todd Youngblood. Todd, I’m looking forward to this conversation.
Todd Youngblood: I am too, it’s going to be fun. I love this job. The folks we get to meet, the perspectives we get to hear and this is your favorite accent worldwide, is it not?
Todd Schnick: It’s absolutely my favorite accent. I’m really excited about it. We may hire these guys to do voiceover vocal when we’re done, but first of all say hello to Les Targ, the CEO of waterAUSTRALIA. Welcome to the show.
Les: Good afternoon, Todd.
Todd Schnick: And, Bob Herbert, who is a water supplier advocate appointed by the Australian government. Welcome to the show, Bob.
Bob: Welcome to you, I’m very pleased to be here with Todd 1 and Todd 2.
Todd Schnick: Our pleasure.
Todd Youngblood: Our pleasure.
Todd Schnick: Bob, let’s start with you. Tell us a little about you and your background and what you’re doing for the Australian government.
Bob: Well, it’s a very important initiative that I’m involved with. The Australian government is supporting key industry sectors and one of them is water.
We’ve got a very strong reputation in managing water and we’ve built that up over the years, and the government’s decided that there should be some support for the sector and have appointed an advocate to be the storyteller of all the successes that we’ve achieved over the years.
That’s what I’m doing. In addition to that my background is one from industry. I have a long career involved leading Australia’s largest industry association the Australia Industry Group.
So that gives me some knowledge of the companies that supply into the water industry, and we’ve brought a number of them across to WEFTEC to show our capability and tell the world how good they are.
Todd Schnick: Les, let’s go with you. Tell us about you and your background and then tell us about waterAUSTRALIA.
Les: Yes, thanks very much, Todd. Well, I’ve had a mixed career. I had 20 years in the government, 20 years in the private sector as a director and CEO and senior executive. waterAUSTRALIA was formed about 3 years ago as a means of promoting the Australian water industry internationally.
As Bob mentioned, we have a reputation around the world for water management and governance, demand, management, and so on. But the industry has really helped deliver that story and so we’re pretty keen to tell the world about what our industry is capable of.
Todd Schnick: You’ve both talked about the strong reputation that companies with and in partnership with the Australian government has. Be more specific about why the strong reputation?
Bob: Well, we’ve got a land that has been experiencing the extremes of climate. We’ve been through a period of great drought over the last seven or eight years, in addition to that we’ve now gone into, in a lot of areas, a lot of flooding rains.
So, we’ve had this combination of drought and flood that we’ve had to manage. We’ve had to ply our minds to that, which we’ve done over the years, we’ve worked out how we can bring the community with us and manage those extreme climate conditions.
We were able to persuade people not to use excessive water and encourage a drought, and we’ve looked at how we best managed the periods of flood. In addition to that, over the years we’ve brought a great deal of expertise through some significant projects in Australia that you may be familiar with.
The stunning mountain scheme, the old river scheme, bringing our river systems into play – all of that has given us a great deal of ability to manage water, and from that we’ve built expertise amongst companies with the support mechanisms from government as well. So, it’s coming together extremely well. That’s why we’re here to tell the story.
Todd Schnick: Les, Todd and I have had the pleasure of broadcasting from WEFTEC for several years now. We’ve never had the pleasure of interacting with you gentlemen before. Why the sudden interest from Australia in WEFTEC?
Les: Well, this is a very large market and what our Australian companies have done is really pioneer innovative solutions. We’re a small country, but we’ve had big water problems, and that really has required us to innovate.
So, we innovate in very important ways which we think are of international relevance, particularly relevant to the U.S. markets around issues such as water security, water quality, and water efficiency. So, our companies here are really a microcosm of that particular capability that we think has some relevance in the U.S. market.
Todd Schnick: Les, tell us a little bit about the booth here at WEFTEC, the Australian booth?
Les: The Australian booth, waterAUSTRALIA, is here really to help those companies with visibility. This is the land of the giants, WEFTEC, as far as international exhibitions for water is concerned.
You’ve got to have some visibility. Individually those companies might come here and take a little space somewhere, but be very well inconspicuous. So, by being part of a larger stand under the waterAUSTRALIA banner, they have their visibility and we’ve had a lot of interest for several of those companies and their innovative solutions as a result.
Todd Schnick: Bob, there has been a lot more of a global feel to this WEFTEC than at previous shows that we’ve done, but, gentlemen, talk about the difference between an Australian company that deals with water versus some of the others that are exhibiting here.
Bob: I think if you go to the booth, the waterAUSTRALIA booth, one thing that will stand out is that we’re not selling pumps, not selling valves, what we’re selling is solutions. And, innovative solutions at that.
So, I think that’s the real difference. What we’re bringing is all solution, all system solution to a particular set of problems. I think that’s the fundamental difference.
Todd Schnick: Bob, we Americans have a bit of a reputation for saying, “Hey, we know what we’re doing, get out of the way and we’ll get the job done.” What kind of reaction are you getting from particularly the American companies, from your presence here?
Bob: We’ve had some very good reaction to what we’ve got on offer. There’s a good cross-section of capability on display. Each of the exhibitors from Australia have reported to us that they’ve had quite good interest.
That’s built upon our success when we came here last year and the “G’day USA” banner. That gave us the encouragement to come back and demonstrate our capability.
I think that if you mark the success for our individual companies out of ten, most would be out in the eight to nine zone, which I think is very good.
We’ll monitor that, record what the outcomes are, because the proof of the pudding you will find will be in the contracts that might be signed. There has been a couple of companies in particular that have been extremely enthusiastic about the prospects arising from WEFTEC.
Les: I think that’s also true that these companies aren’t going to come here alone. They’re going to be working with U.S. partners, so an important part of their presence here is to find those potential partners. And, you’re right, we use a lot of U.S. technology in the Australian market as well.
Todd Schnick: Gentlemen, we’re deep into day three of the WEFTEC exhibition, you’ve spent some time here observing some things, what are the key takeaways, so when you go back, what are the things that you – were the critical learning for you here?
Bob: In terms of the market, I think it’s the emerging body of regulation dealing with water quality. Things like stormwater runoff, how do you manage that. And a whole bunch of issues of water quality, which we also have to face in Australia. So, I think that there is a real intersection of interests, if you like, between the U.S. market and where it’s heading and the Australian market and what we’re trying to do.
Todd Schnick: Do you have any additional thoughts?
Bob: Yeah, we’ve learned a few lessons, of course. We have, for example, our biggest market in the Australian context fair water utilities, we have about forty or so of those. When we come here, there are forty thousand of them and we find that a little daunting.
We have worked closely with government, we see working with government here just a tad more than challenging because of the individual interests of all of the authorities. We have to digest that, so it means that you can’t suddenly be an expert in every part of the U.S. market, you’ve got to target. And you’ve also, as Les said, look for partners to proceed with.
Todd Schnick: Les, it’s quite clear just looking at you and Bob, as you were walking up to the booth and having our conversation here that you really do have a strong partnership going. What kind of tips can you give other folks, we Americans are dealing with all of the government entities that we have to deal with.
Les: I think what you see is actually quite perceptive. We have a very close relationship, working relationship. We collaborate. And I think that’s so important that we have a collaborative environment between the industry and the government. I can tell you that that happens on several levels in Australia. So, collaboration, for us is really the key word.
Todd Schnick: Alright, gentlemen, I hate to say but we’re out of time. Before we let you go, I want to ask each of you how to get in touch with you and learn more about the work that you’re doing. Bob, let’s start with you.
Bob: Through the Australian government, the department of industry in particular, the federal department of industry. That’s fairly easily accessible by which ever channel you go. You can be directed to the advocate program through them.
Todd Schnick: Les, what about you?
Les: Well, we can be contacted through the website. I encourage people to visit the website, waterAUSTRALIA.org, and they can contact us through that website.
Todd Schnick: Bob Herbert, Water Supplier Advocate employed by the Australian government, and Les Targ, CEO of waterAUSTRALIA. Gentlemen, it was a real pleasure, thanks for making time to join us.
Todd Schnick: Alright. That wraps this segment. Water Online Radio, live from WEFTEC, New Orleans. We’ll be right back.