Citiwater leads in sustainability

A set of performance management indicators that reflect triple bottom line issues developed by Townsville City Council’s business unit, Citiwater, is gaining international attention. Citiwater is recognised as being among Australian and international leaders in working to supply and treat water on a sustainable basis – environmentally, socially and economically.

Citiwater has developed a wastewater treatment plant on Magnetic Island that recycles 100 per cent of wastewater and has no ocean outfall. It is now working to upgrade its main treatment facilities to achieve 90 per cent wastewater recycling across Townsville by 2008.

The generally used definition of sustainability is that it meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

In its efforts to minimise its environmental footprint on water resources, Citiwater has developed sustainability performance indicators. These are currently being examined by water authorities in the USA.

Cheryl Davis, Manager of the Water Supply and Treatment Division of San Francisco Water, said Citiwater’s performance indicators are interesting.

“I feel we’ll get some useful ideas from their report,” she said.

Henry Fracchia, Citiwater Manager, said that their approach to developing a performance management framework had been assisted by Vikki Uhlmann, who is undertaking research within the Advanced Wastewater Management Centre at the University of Queensland.

Vikki is well able to make such comparative judgements, after presenting her research to a mix of utilities and research organisations in the USA, UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Spain and Portugal during 2004.

“Vikki Uhlmann’s work defined sustainability for water utilities – something that has not been done before,” Henry Fracchia said. “She has also worked to help participating water utilities assess and improve their sustainability. What we’ve developed at Citiwater is a set of sustainability indicators so that we can measure and report on our progress toward minimising our environmental footprint.”

Vikki Uhlmann uses Citiwater’s approach as a case study.

“For a regional Council business unit, Citiwater is really achieving something that is unique,” she said.“I take my hat off to them. Many utilities in Australia – and internationally – do not report on the triple bottom line, whereas Citiwater is leading the way in having drafted a vision of sustainability based on the triple bottom line, as well as a set of sustainability indicators for measuring progress. Management has involved staff in this journey, so that everyone understands and ‘owns’ the approach being taken.”

A further innovation at Citiwater is to prepare monthly social, environmental and financial performance scorecards. These summarise Citiwater’s performance graphically and on a chart indicator that shows whether the business unit is in front, on target, needs monitoring, requires action or is in the danger zone.

Henry Fracchia said most organisation’s report performance on a percentage basis.

“At Citiwater, our aim is to improve our performance continuously, as we believe there will always be some way to make further progress,” he said.“Our long term aim is to make Citiwater more sustainable in all senses of the word.”

Practical steps include Council’s decision last year to set the goal of implementing a $55 million upgrade that will enable recycling 70 per cent of all wastewater by 2008 and 90 per cent by 2015.

For more information contact Business Relations Officer, Malou Mendoza, on (07) 4727 8723.