An alliance of businesses in the business of water

Opportunities to deliver integrated and holistic solutions to water management problems

February 27, 2019

Andrew Telfer, is Director/Senior Principal Hydrogeologist with Water Technology and the former Director/Senior Principal Hydrogeologist, Australian Water Environments. He is also a member of the Alliance's Board of Directors.

Tell me a bit about your roles with both Water Technology and Australian Water Environment

I was a founding Director of Australian Water Environments (AWE) in 1998, and I am now a Director of Water Technology (WT) following the sale of AWE to WT. In both cases, I have led the hydrogeology team in the delivery of innovative and appropriate solutions for our clients in Government, mining and private enterprise. We specialise in solving difficult problems in water management. From a business perspective, I have been involved in all aspects of running and managing a small business.

What attracted you to a career in the water industry?

I completed my degree in Applied Geology at the South Australian Institute of Technology (now University of South Australia) at the Levels, and had 30 hours of lectures by Don Armstrong in the third year of the degree course. The lights went on, and I did my Graduate Diploma in groundwater modelling under Don’s supervision in 1982. The University had only that year moved from punchcards for running programs to a remote terminal in the Geology Building. I’ve been working in groundwater ever since – in Government for 10 years, and in the private sector for more than 20 years. I enjoy helping minimise impacts arising from the ongoing increasing demand for water, and creating improvements in ecological outcomes where possible.

What do you believe the big opportunities for the water industry are right now?

There are opportunities in the national market and in developing offshore markets. Water scarcity in the Indo-Asia-Pacific arc is becoming more and more a reality, and finding solutions is becoming a matter of urgency. Australian, and particularly South Australian, companies and individuals have experience, expertise and commodities that are of high value to our northern neighbours. In particular, our background leads us to consider integrated and wholistic solutions to water management problems, a perspective that is less common elsewhere and that can therefore provide valuable new insights for our neighbour countries. It is a very exciting time to be in the water business, because we are on the cusp of widespread change in our neighbours’ water management needs. It is up to us to find ways to contribute to meeting the emerging needs.

What do you see as the challenges for the water industry now and into the future?

The challenge for South Australia is to map out and implement a strategy for building offshore networks and business connections, to grow the State’s water business. Developing an export focus for business and fostering partnerships between industry, government and universities in the water sector has the potential to deliver significant opportunities for local businesses and individuals, and increase returns for South Australia. These opportunities may come from new markets for existing products, from innovative new products and services, from new collaborations between existing groups, or from the formulation of new businesses and collaboration with offshore groups.

Can you share a bit about Water Technology’s acquisition of AWE and what this means for AWE?

The merger with Water Technology has been about creating value from two like-minded organisations by increasing the geographic coverage (South Australia) and product lines (hydrogeology) of the WaterTech network. We now have offices in Brisbane and the Gold Coast; Melbourne, Geelong, Wangaratta, Stawell and Bairnsdale; Adelaide; and Perth – and this network provides us with contact with local communities. Our product lines excel in all aspects of surface water management, water quality, coastal management, wastewater management and groundwater. The result has been that we now have access to a much larger pool of like-minded individuals who share our values and have an interest in the project outcomes.

Given your background and current roles, what do you bring to the Water Industry Alliance Board, and how do you feel you can influence the water industry going forward?

The WIA provides a voice for South Australian business, which is difficult for any one business to achieve alone. Having owned a business for 20 years, I have a clear view of the constraints and opportunities present in delivering services to clients in the South Australian context. I bring the SME perspective and the service industry perspective to the Board. My focus is on helping grow the South Australian water industry by facilitating engagement of our companies and individuals with the countries in the Indo-Asia-Pacific arc.