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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Week 3: Brisbane Australia

This week I had the opportunity to see a site for sustainable water management and speak to a researcher at the University of Queensland working on water quality for the Great Barrier Reef.

I met with the Water Services Supervisor with the City of Brisbane and South Bank Corporation. He showed me an innovative stormwater harvesting, treatment and reuse project, Rain Bank, which was completed in 2011. It uses underground reservoirs to store, harvest and treat stormwater and can recycle up to 77 megalitres (the equivalent of 30 Olympic-sized swimming pools) each year. This is enough to provide 85% of Parkland’s irrigation and non-potable water requirements. Parkland is an urban area in South Bank, near Brisbane City and the Brisbane River. Many residents and visitors use South Bank for picnicking, biking, running, shopping, and eating at a variety of restaurants.

Parkland in South Bank near the Brisbane River

Local governments and private organizations put funding for this project in place when the Brisbane area was going through extreme droughts from 2002-2007. To find space to store rainwater in an urban setting is rare and this project will ensure water resources will be available during periods of long-term drought. The project has won several awards including the Stormwater Industry Association of Queensland’s Excellence in Infrastructure Award and the Healthy Waterway’s Water Sensitive Urban Design Award.

South Bank also has a dedicated Water Efficiency Management Plan which includes installing dual flush toilets, waterless urinals and three second push-style taps in all public toilets at South Bank; installing water tanks in the Parklands and applying wetting agents to turf and gardens in the Parklands to reduce the need for watering. Since introducing these measures, water consumption in the Parklands has reduced by 65%. Other sustainability measures that South Bank have implemented include: waste reduction and recycling, using bio-friendly cleaning products, energy use reduction, using locally sourced materials, utilizing native plants that are drought resistant, green building, CityCycle, and sustainability education for the community.

Recycled water used in South Bank
Recycled water used in South Bank

My next meeting was with a researcher at the University of Queensland (Marine Spatial Ecology Lab) who gave me some good information about work they are doing to track water quality and ecosystem services for the Great Barrier Reef. He also directed me to reports and research done by other researchers and organizations that will help with my paper.

Marine Spatial Ecology Lab that I visited at the University of Queensland
Marine Spatial Ecology Lab that I visited at the University of Queensland

Over the weekend I visited D’Aguilar National Park and Mount Glorious. It was a beautiful hike with striking mountaintop views through eucalypt woodlands and a subtropical rainforest. Throughout the hike, I thought I heard a baby or a cat crying. Turns out, it was a catbird! There are some strange birds in Australia and I could do an entire blog on that.  Most likely it was a Green Catbird which are found in rainforests in Southeast Queensland.

Green Catbird
Green Catbird

I also visited the City Botanic Gardens and explored mangrove forests along the riverfront. Australia has 41 different species of mangroves and you can find most of them in the state of Queensland.

Another highlight was meeting with a fellow Patel School of Global Sustainability student! It’s nice that Xiaomin Liu is also in Brisbane for her project.


Next week I meet with staff from Healthy Waterways and the International Water Centre.


Sara Kane

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.

IMG_2515 IMG_2557 IMG_2556 IMG_2528

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.



Brisbane, Australia: Week 1

I arrived in Brisbane, Australia on Wednesday, May 20 after traveling for 25 hours. The first two days I spent getting oriented to the city and waiting for my luggage to arrive. On Friday, May 22 I traveled into the city to meet with Dr. Nick Schofield, the CEO of the International RiverFoundation. I became familiar with the office space and staff that I will be in for the next four weeks.

About the International RiverFoundation (IRF):

IRF works in partnerships around the world to fund and promote the sustainable restoration and management of river basins. As an international dynamic public benefit organization, we have a life-changing impact on individuals and communities. By helping restore and sustainably manage rivers we have achieved improved health, ecological, economic, and social outcomes for people and the environment.

IRF logo

IRF rewards and champions best practice in river basin management through the International, Australian and European Riverprizes. From the Danube River in Europe, to the Mekong River in South-East Asia, and the St Johns River in the United States, the IRF has a far reaching network. IRF acts as a catalyst for replication of effective river system management around the world and promotes long term relationships between developed and developing countries around sustainable river system management.

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, which has been a highlight of my trip so far. It was an amazing experience to see animals that I would never see anywhere else – koalas, kangaroos, platypus, and wombats. I made a new friend, Sheldon the koala.

I also got a chance to explore the Brisbane Riverfront area. I was impressed with the smart urban planning and use of green open spaces in the city and along the river. There were many people enjoying the outdoor space biking, running, hiking, kayaking, sailing and rock climbing. I really enjoyed seeing a community garden in the downtown area where anyone can go and pick fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs to take home with them.

My first full day at IRF was Monday, May 25 and I began by assisting the organization with a US contact database and writing a section about my work for their newsletter. While at IRF, I am working primarily with Melanie Ryan, International Programs Manager and Trish Dalby, Marketing and Communications Manager. Currently, they are busy preparing for their annual  International RiverSymposium  which will be held here in Brisbane in September.

Here is the IRF newsletter post about my project:

Introducing Sara KaneBlue Line


Sara Kane is a visiting student from the United States and will be working for four weeks with IRF. Sara is completing her master’s degree at the University of South Florida’s Patel College of Global Sustainability in Tampa, Florida studying Global Sustainability with a concentration in water. The Patel College of Global Sustainability fosters sustainable urban communities and environments through collaborative research, education and community involvement. Its research generates innovations and new knowledge that will help cities around the world, including those in developing countries; reduce their ecological footprint while improving their form and function to make them healthier, more livable and resilient.

For the next few weeks, Sara will be working on her research paper and meeting with IRF partners. Sara’s research will focus on watershed management practices and policies in urban environments. She will be looking at best practices for river management and comparing U.S. case studies to Australia. She will be focusing on water quality improvement efforts in urban environments. Sara chose to work in Brisbane because of their water management efforts in a vibrant urban waterfront city. She hopes to gain knowledge about the similarities that Australia has to the Southwest Florida coast where she lives. She will also research IRF’s Riverprize award recipients from around the world to capture lessons that can be transferred to other watershed and river basin catchment organizations that are trying to improve habitat and water quality in rapidly growing cities.

“I am excited to make international connections with IRF and other organizations in Australia,” Sara says. “Brisbane is a well designed sustainable urban environment that values natural resources and its waterfront areas. I look forward to learning many best practices that I can share with my colleagues in the United States.”

Sara will be based with the IRF for the duration of her research. Additionally, she will be consulting extensively with different organizations in the region, including Healthy Waterways, the International WaterCentre, Queensland Government – Department of Environment & Heritage Protection, SeqWater and BMT WBM who are all sharing their local and global expertise and innovation with Sara.

In the afternoon, I was able to meet with two staff members from the Queensland Government -Department of Environment and Heritage Protection. Matthew Fullerton is the Manager for Reef Coordination and Partnerships in the Office of the Great Barrier Reef. He was able to give me information about water quality monitoring, modeling and recent report cards for the Great Barrier Reef catchment systems. At this stage, I am gathering information from others here for my comparison study of watershed management and policies in Southeast Queensland and Southwest Florida.


Sara Kane