Welcome to 2017 and the first blog post from the newly formed Catchment Connections– part of the Centre for Catchment and flood Management. We are launching the centre today on the 6th anniversary of the devastating floods in Brisbane in January 2011. These floods have been a big part of our lives over the past five years. As the recent article in The Conversation highlights, these floods cost Australia almost $30billion dollars in infrastructure damage and lost revenue. Tragically too, twenty two people lost their lives due to the speed at which flood waters inundated the township of Grantham in the Lockyer Valley. For four years we were part of the team who investigated how often these floods occur and how we can better manage their impact on our catchments and ecosystems.
The findings communicated in the Big Flood project (www.thebigflood.com.au) offered fundamentally new insights into how catchments in Queensland operate which often set them apart from other rivers throughout Australia. They have many characteristics which, if misunderstood or ignored will lead to a lack of preparedness when floods inevitably happen again. In terms of being better prepared for when the next big flood does happen, we have shown that by including past floods stored in our floodplains (palaeofloods), we can reduce the uncertainty in flood predictions by almost 70%. This is huge and together with tools like prioritising the placement of riparian vegetation to minimise flood risk, the findings are world class. However, time was against us in delivering these messages to the people that matter most- our politicians and policy planners. Rather than see all this new understanding sit idly until the next flood inevitably happens, and watch millions of dollars being spent on unsustainable and ineffectual solutions to problems like soil loss and declining water quality, we took the initiative and set up Catchment Connections.
The name came about because we believe there is one key factor that empowers the uptake of new understanding; connection– whether that is connecting the problem with the right understanding or connecting the right people with the right solution. Those connections need to be built on solid foundations of quality understanding, better predictions of what’s likely to happen in the future and excellent communication and community engagement to ensure optimal planning decisions.
These are the guiding values we hope to build into the work we deliver. We look forward to you being on this journey with us- join us now and help us share some of the ways we can better manage our catchments, rivers and offshore ecosystems.