It was an absolute pleasure to welcome almost 500 delegates and accompanying persons to the Sydney ANCOLD-NZSOLD Conference in October. This year’s conference carried a special significance since it had been three years since the last in-person ANCOLD-NZSOLD conference in Auckland and four years on home soil for ANCOLD due to the impact of COVID-19.
The conference theme of “Sustainable Dams in the Climate of Change” was well supported by the authors and presenters of the technical papers and resonated well with the delegates. The conference provided the usual platform and environment for sharing knowledge and experiences that are crucial as we adapt to the changing operational landscape. As well noted by, presenter and delegate, Elise McQuilten “We have a professional responsibility to progress our knowledge and understanding of the likely contests future generations will face, so that we may pre-empt and prepare for these challenges today.”
Recapping the conference statistics specifically for the Technical Program: 18% of the delegates were female, and 20% were Young Professionals (YP). Within the YP cohort, 30% were female. Of the 66 presenters, 21 were YPs, and 12 were females. Furthermore, 68% of the presenters were from consulting backgrounds, and 20% were dam owners. The stats triggered good discussions at the conference, especially the need to widen the talent pool by creating an inclusive environment that will attract the less represented demographics, such as females, to the industry.
The pre-conference workshop presented essential aspects of several ANCOLD guidelines and highlighted areas for further review. This included DSEP and Earthquake Guidelines and updates on the practice in the erosion of unlined spillways. The diversity of thought and ideas was fully evident during the discussions on the Earthquake Guidelines. This demonstrated that the sharpest factual and philosophical differences could be deliberated with the highest mutual esteem and cordial friendship. As such, our prominent experts in this domain, Gary Gibson and Paul Somerville, demonstrated a commitment to further their discourse in pursuit of an industry solution that bridges the existing challenges in applying the ANCOLD Earthquake Guidelines and implications of National Seismic Hazard Assessment of Australia 2018 (NSHA18).
The Technical Program was run in three parallel sessions and covered sub-themes: Sustainable Management, risk-informed frameworks, climate change, hydropower and mixed-use, tailings dams, new technology and new guidelines. According to Elise McQuilten, “ANCOLD 2022 was insightful and thought-provoking, a calibre program of speakers offering many key takeaways.”
The keynote speakers approached the sustainability theme through different lenses to get things going. Owen Buckley affirmed infrastructure sustainability as “infrastructure that is designed, constructed and operated to optimise environmental, social and economic outcomes of the long term.” He also introduced us to the concept that we are “ancestors of tomorrow”, which is in keeping with the United Nations ethos on sustainability. Mike Rogers highlighted the need to shift our focus from the traditional components-based approach to the consideration of the response of the broader system. This approach will enhance the appreciation of system effects and system vulnerabilities. Rory Nathan reminded us that due to the impact of climate change, historical information used to assess risk is increasingly becoming irrelevant. Hence the need to transition from the traditional to an adaptive approach to dam safety management. Gigi Foster enunciated public decision-making under threat through the economic lens. All the keynote speakers implored the delegates with a call to action on the various sustainability dimensions.
The post-conference tour of Warragamba Dam was well attended. The WaterNSW staff did an exceptional job in hosting the delegates. Conference delegate Sonia Fortuna remarked, “What a definitive proof of hospitality from WaterNSW and the organising committee. On top of highly informative presentations throughout the conference, great atmosphere, many opportunities to network with peers – including meeting a few long-term colleagues in person for the first time… What an amazing memory this will be.”
Furthermore, in partnership with Leishman Associates, we sought ways to extend the experience for our delegates post the conference. Hence, we are providing access to the recordings of the sessions, all the presentation packs and conference photos taken by a professional photographer.
ANCOLD/NZSOLD 2022 Conference Convenor