Water researcher explores planning opportunities

16 January 2020

Geoff Beeson’s fascination for water use and management stems back to his childhood in Victoria where he was intrigued by the irrigation systems of the Goulburn Valley.

As an independent researcher and educator, Dr Beeson’s interest has been a key aspect of his career as well as the subject of his book A Water Story: Learning from the Past, Planning for the Future to be published by CSIRO next month.

He is also the keynote speaker at RDA Orana’s upcoming Inland Growth Summit where he will discuss the highs and lows of water use practices in Australia.

“I’ve always had an interest but the last few years, I decided to put the book together because we have a lot of management issues especially the Murray Darling Basin Plan.”

“What I will be talking about is based on the book which describes my experience and research over a long period,” he said.

“I have had a long-held interest in water use and management and it seemed there was a need for a book in the area of the history of water in Australia and its use and management.”

Dr Beeson has travelled around Australia and the world looking at storage and management – from studying the ancient Roman civilizations to seeing massive engineering projects in the USA, irrigation mishaps in Uzbekistan and water systems in North Africa.

“There’s information I’ve developed over the years about what’s happening and the issues in Australia about use of water and how water is conserved,” he said.      

“I have looked at the value of innovations and developments that were trialled - some remarkable, some disastrous. My topic area is focused on sustaining more conservation, the role of innovation and what we’d be looking at that has had an impact in the past including ancient and recent civilisation.”

Dr Beeson said that when Europeans came to Australia, they undertook development to establish reliable water sources.

“The development they undertook in terms of establishing reliable sources and general developments have made an enormous contribution in Australia.

“But the first European settlers treated it like there was constant water supply all year – they didn’t learn from the established inhabitants about water management.”

Dr Beeson said critical innovations have affected successful water management in Australia, with a particular focus on the country’s recent past and present.

“We need to look at what’s needed in the general direction in terms of water scarcity, including population and demands. There’s been some blunders.”

Following his global review, Dr Beeson explained that there are other nations such as Uzbekistan that have overallocated their water supply. 

“We’ve done the same thing in the Murray Darling Basin. That seems to be a big problem that we are still grappling with. Hoover Dam had a really negative effect in the USA. Every country you look at, there are successes and failures.”

“For Australia, we have to look critically at successes and failures and what that tells us about what we can do now. 

“We were building dams for storage is the past. We’ve got to look at ways to conserve and improve our water in the future, how to handle water. We need to do it for efficiency and development, that’s really critical.”

“We can learn from the past when we’re looking to the future.”

Dr Beeson is an Honorary Professor and former Pro Vice-Chancellor of Deakin University.

He has a background in science and a PhD in science education. 

RDA Orana’s Inland Growth Summit will be held at Taronga Western Plains Zoo on January 30.

The event runs from 9am to 7pm with the main conference to be followed by networking.

Find out more or purchase tickets HERE