Week 2: Brisbane, Australia

Week 2 in Brisbane has been filled with many new and educational experiences. This week the highlight of my research project was the opportunity to go out in the field to see a water management site and participate in an educational tour with local students. On Thursday, I met with Ellie Pobjoy, the Community Relations Advisor for Engagement at Seqwater.


Some background on Seqwater (this organization could be compared to Tampa Bay Water in Florida):

“Seqwater delivers drinking water to more than 3.1 million people in Southeast Queensland. They ensure a safe, secure and reliable water supply for South East Queensland, as well as providing essential flood mitigation services and managing catchment health. They also provide irrigation services to about 1,200 rural customers and provide recreation facilities to the community.

Seqwater is one of Australia’s largest water businesses with the most geographically spread and diverse asset base of any capital city water authority. Their operations extend from the New South Wales border to the base of the Toowoomba ranges and north to Gympie.

Seqwater manages more than $10 billion of water supply assets and the natural catchments of the region’s major water supply sources. This includes dams, weirs, conventional water treatment plants and climate resilient sources of water through the Gold Coast Desalination Plant and the Western Corridor Recycled Water Scheme. A 600 kilometer reverse flow pipeline network enables drinking water to be transported to where it is needed most, from the Sunshine Coast to Greater Brisbane, to Redlands and south to the Gold Coast.

Seqwater also manages recreation facilities that provide more than 50% of the green space in SEQ outside of national parks. On average, more than 2.6 million people visit their recreation facilities each year.

Seqwater was formed on 1 January 2013 through a merger of three State-owned water businesses, the SEQ Water Grid Manager, LinkWater and the former Seqwater. They are also now responsible for the long term planning of the region’s future water needs, a function that was formerly undertaken by the Queensland Water Commission.”


The fieldtrip was at North Pine River Dam and Water Treatment Plant. Ellie gave an overview of the area – the North Pine river, catchment, dam, and water treatment. North Pine Dam was built in 1974 and holds 91,000 mega liters of water. The students did water quality testing and a macro invertebrate sampling on site. As you can see from the photos below, it is a very healthy ecosystem with good water quality. Australia has some unique bird species and pictured here are Australian Pelicans that enjoy this area of North Pine.

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Over the weekend, I visited Stradbroke Island. It is off the coast of Brisbane in Moreton Bay. I was on a mission to see a humpback whale. I’ve never seen any species of whale and it’s migrating season for humpbacks here on the coast now until November. I have many things on my list to see and do while in Australia but the most important is sighting specific species of wildlife. So far I’ve accomplished my goals (koalas, kangaroos, whales, weird birds) and I still have 19 days. While on the beach at Stradbroke Island I saw a massive humpback jump completely out of the water! We also saw a kangaroo in the wild and he was having a nice snack of grass while we were walking the path around the coast. I couldn’t ask for more!

This week I also had a meeting with another International RiverFoundation (IRF) partner – BMT WBM, a consulting firm that hosts the IRF offices where I’m working at downtown. BMT WBM leads engineering and environmental consulting projects in Australia and throughout the world. Some of their environmental projects include: environmental assessment and management, flooding, coastal modeling and management, water quality and water cycle management, and climate change. I am focusing on their water quality and water cycle management expertise. I met with Tony Webber who is the National Practice leader for Water Quality. We discussed Water Sensitive Urban Design practices, management and framework. He gave me some good sources for my research and I hope to see some of these projects in person next week.

The rest of the time, I’ve been in the office working on gathering data for my paper. In regards to sustainability, I have enjoyed taking public transportation into work every day. There is a train station near where I am staying and it takes about 15 minutes to get into the city. You can take the train, bus or water taxi (ferry) just about anywhere. We took all three to get out to the coast and Stradbroke Island. It goes well with the “no worries” attitude of Australia. You never have to worry about driving or parking if you are traveling around the City.


My office mates treated me with authentic Aussie food! These tasty treats included anzac bisquits, pavlova, lamingtons, meat pies, tim tams and vegemite cheese rolls.

Aussie Food
Aussie Food

You’re probably wondering what everything is so I’ll leave you with some history.

Anzac Biscuits

Associated with Anzac Day on April 25, the biscuit is a crunchy commemoration of the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought in World War I. The Anzac biscuit was made by wives during the war and sent to soldiers, because the basic ingredients (rolled oats, flour, sugar, desiccated coconut, golden syrup, butter, bicarbonate of soda and water) were able to keep for a long time, even on long boat journeys.



Pavlova (pronounced pav-low-vah) is made of a sweet meringue-like crust stuffed full of whipped cream and finished with fresh fruits such as kiwis, strawberries and other colourful berries.



The lamington is often referred to as the “National Cake of Australia.” The National Trust of Queensland even named the lamington one of Australia’s favorite icons. This square-shaped sponge cake is coated in a layer of chocolate icing and desiccated coconut. It sometimes comes in two halves with a layer of cream or jam in the middle. Found commonly throughout cafes as a perfect accompaniment to tea and coffee.


Tim Tam

Yet another biscuit! Arnott’s (which produces Tim Tams) say that around 35 million packs are sold each year. That’s 400 million biscuits at an average of 1.7 packs per Australian. The much-loved chocolate biscuit is made up of two layers of chocolate-malted biscuit, separated by a light chocolate filling and coated in melted chocolate. No wonder you can now find them in supermarkets around the world.


Happy little vegemites enjoy it for breakfast, lunch and tea, so goes the much-played anthem. This is as Australian food as it gets. Although it looks like Britain’s Marmite, locals will tell you Vegemite is very different. And substantially better, more savory than sweet. Although the ingredients are much debated, the dark brown food paste is made from yeast extract (as opposed to Marmite’s vegetable extract). Instructions are simple: spread the toast as soon as possible and apply an even spread of vege.

Vegemite Rolls
Vegemite Rolls

Monday, June 8 is an Australian Holiday – the Queens Birthday. I will gladly join a Birthday celebration with a day off! I should be able to check some more wildlife sightings off my list while sailing in Moreton Bay. I might even catch a glimpse of a pirate. Johnny Depp is here filming for Pirates of the Caribbean 5.



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