Final Week in Brisbane, Australia

The final week of my project was very productive and I had the opportunity to meet with two organizations that are water management trailblazers in Australia.

I spent two days with Healthy Waterways, a nonprofit that works with government and industry partners to protect and improve the waterways of South East Queensland. The organization was built on research and sound science; that continues to be their focus today. They monitor and report on the condition of their local waterways and provide training, planning, policy reform recommendations, and education programs. They have a strong collaborative model that could be a very useful guide and tool for other nations including the US.


One concept I learned about, that will be incorporated in my research, is a holistic view of watershed management called Living Waterways. It addresses all aspects of sustainability and the triple bottom line (Environment, Economy, Social). This concept is essential for urban areas now and in the future.

The Living Waterways approach has been developed to support implementation of water sensitive urban design by encouraging and incentivising design solutions that embody the natural, historical and cultural elements of a site. They promote interaction with water to inspire, promote adventure and discovery, and to educate visitors about the delicacy of our ecosystems.

The Living Waterways approach is site-driven and aligns traditional stormwater principles with place-making benefits based around the four key themes:

  • Living Water
  • Living Places
  • Living Communities
  • Living Local Economies

While at Healthy Waterways, I attended a few meetings to learn more about their initiatives. They have been providing report cards for their catchment areas in South East Queensland and their new 2015 report card will have additional economic and stewardship indicators included. The meetings I attended discussed these concepts and how they will be incorporated in their report card.


I also met with the Program Manager from the International WaterCentre. The International WaterCentre (IWC) provides education and training, applied research and knowledge services to implement a whole-of-water cycle approach and develop capacity in integrated water resource management. They use an integrated water management approach for sustainable urban communities, healthy river basins, water, sanitation, and hygiene.

The IWC Program Manager provided me with an excellent overview of the history of the water industry in Brisbane and the Water Sensitive Cities initiative. This information will help frame my research for how we have managed water in the past and where we need to go in order to transition to a holistic, smart approach for designing urban cities and managing water for resiliency, reducing runoff, and meeting social and economic needs of a community.


After my work was complete, I was able to explore Northeast Queensland before I left the country. I traveled North from Brisbane to Cairns and went diving on the Great Barrier Reef. I’m glad I got to experience this beautiful ecosystem with the largest coral reef system I’ve ever seen, tropical fish, sharks and sea turtles. It was an experience of a lifetime and I feel grateful for this opportunity. Exploring sustainability efforts in another country has been enlightening and rewarding. It is something I have been looking forward to over the last two years while pursuing my Masters degree at USF!

I would like to add a special thank you to the people that made me feel exceedingly welcome in Australia. Everyone was very kind, helpful, hospitable and willing to share their knowledge with me. Thank you to the professional staff that met with me and gave me research accommodations: International RiverFoundation, Queensland Government, BMT WBM, Seqwater, Healthy Waterways and International WaterCentre. I will be forever grateful and hope to continue sharing ideas and knowledge overseas.

I’ve made it back to the United States and I’m looking forward to starting my new position in the Sustainability field and finishing my research paper before August graduation!


Sara Kane

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  1. Hey Sara! So glad to hear about your good experience. Something that popped from your post was the strong collaborative model implemented by Healthy Waterways. That is something I found as well in the organization I am working with. Though we talk about this in our courses a lot, I had not encountered it as a core policy in the organizations I have worked with back in the U.S. Of course, there is networking and exchange between institutions, but what I’ve noticed here is that it is an almost automatic first step in the development of a project- seeking out partnerships right away. What you point out is true: doing more of that in our own institutions could be very useful. All best!

  2. Sara, you’re so awesome and have so much to offer! Can’t believe you’re finished already. What a fantastic experience it sounds like you had, and so perfect for you. I’m sure you were able to offer great insights to them, as well. And congratulations not he new position! You are an inspiration, for sure!

    1. Thanks so much Ericka! That’s so sweet! You are an inspiration too and I hope your internship is everything you hoped it would be and more!

  3. your pictures are beautiful. Sad to say i did not know parts of Australia looked like this. You look like you fit in pretty well. Im sure writing your report was a breeze.

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