Rachel is an experienced water resources engineer specialising in integrated water planning, policy and regulation. She has almost 20 years’ engineering and research experience in water, wastewater, stormwater and environmental assessment. Rachel joined the Institute for Sustainable Futures as a PhD student in 2010.
Rachel’s PhD research focused on the trade-offs, benefits and challenges involved in integrating non-potable recycled water into urban water supply and management, using Sydney as a case study. This thesis provides guidance that assists the water industry make robust and sustainable decisions, particularly in relation tothe role of small systems within a centralised network. Rachel has published her research in Journal of Cleaner Production, International Journal of Water Governance and AWA Water Journal.
She has recently completed a number of water efficiency and integrated water projects, including reviewing water restrictions regimes, developing water conservation strategies and identifying challenges and practical approaches to reuse pricing.
Prior to joining ISF, Rachel worked for Sydney Water in a range of roles including policy, planning, compliance, pricing and environmnetal impact assessment. Rachel has also worked in the waste industry.
Rachel's academic background is in Environmental Engineering (UNSW) with major in Water and a thesis on industrial odour control. Rachel also has a Masters in Environmental Law (USyd), focusing on Water and Environmental Planning Law.
Rachel is also the Chair of the Local Water Solutions Forum Sydney and a member of the Open Cities Alliance Steering Committee.
Can supervise: YES
My research interests are:
- Water efficiency
- One Water - Urban water planning for liveable cities, strategy development, drought response planning
- Efficiencies in the water industry
- Integrated Water Management
- Urban Water policy and regulation
I am interested in supervising postgraduate research in the areas of water planning and efficiency
- Integrated water planning and management - responding to changing customer and societal demands
- Efficiency in the context of recycled water
- Comparative analysis of economic regulation on water conservation, recycling and integrated water management
- The impact of distributed systems on circular economy / resource efficiency
Watson, R, Mukheibir, P & Mitchell, C 2017, 'Local recycled water in Sydney: A policy and regulatory tug-of-war', Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 148, pp. 583-594.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Local recycled water (LRW) can potentially contribute to resilient and sustainable urban water services critical to liveable cities. Investment in these systems has increased rapidly in Australia in the past 10 years, yet public and private investment in these systems can still be difficult, complex, costly and risky. An in depth case study analysis of Sydney, revealed that while the local policy, institutional and regulatory environment is on the surface conducive to the uptake of local recycled water, actual practice has surprisingly mitigated against further and broader investment in these systems. These instruments are often counteracted by multiple opposing levers that in some instances were developed for entirely different purposes. The generalizable insight is that a systematic, systemic, detailed review of these instruments and levers can reveal unexpected contradictions and provide a strong and defensible base from which to develop strategies to address unintended consequences and remove barriers to future investment.
Watson, R, Fane, S & Mitchell, CA 2016, 'The Critical Role of Impact Distribution for Local Recycled Water Systems', International Journal of Water Governance, vol. 2016, no. 4:12, pp. 5-21.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Small-scale or local recycled water systems are increasingly being installed in urban centers in Australia, and throughout the world. These (often private) systems are in building basements, parks, on industrial sites and within small communities that are already serviced by existing public centralized water and wastewater networks. A consistent and fair assessment of the value of such local recycling systems, particularly in relation to centralized extension, augmentation and replacement, has proved to be problematic. This paper reveals why. It suggests that the traditional characterization of impacts into social, environmental, economic and at times technical groupings misses a key aspect in understanding the relative costs, benefits and risks of these systems: their
distribution across the wide range of stakeholder groups. This paper proposes that accounting for the distribution of impacts is critical for assessments that include options of different scales and different levels of responsibility as there is a significant difference in the impact distribution between conventional urban water services and small-scale, local recycled water systems. This will help practitioners better understand the consequences of varying the impact distribution,
particularly when moving from substantially public responsibility and ownership of assets to a mix of public and private responsibility and ownership.
Watson, R 2011, 'Wastewater systems: Decentralised or distributed? A review of terms used in the water industry', Water, vol. 38, no. 8, pp. 69-73.
This paper draws on several Water Efficiency strategies recently developed by ISF for mid-size utilities. It describes examples of opportunities being identified by utilities and the approaches applied in analysing the potential for water conservation. In detailing some of the current ‘best practice’ the paper aims to provide pointers for the water industry more generally. This includes both how to identify areas of water conservation potential and in the design of programs to effectively realise savings. The paper also highlights how advances in digital technologies and data analytics can shift thinking around program design and implementation.
Recycled water pricing poses significant challenges, with utilities struggling to balance establishing markets, recovering costs and creating a nexus between beneficiaries and who pays for reuse schemes. Historical pricing legacies, regulatory and institutional frameworks and environmental conditions all contribute to the complexity.
This paper outlines preliminary findings from the Water Research Foundation-supported project ‘Challenges and Practical Approaches to Water Reuse Pricing,’ from the Australian perspective. It explores two Victorian utilities experience with reuse pricing.
Local recycled water systems have the potential to
meet many of the opportunities and challenges
currently faced by the urban water industry.
Recently there has been an increased installation of
local recycled water in Sydney, however, there is a
lack of agreement as to their overall value.
This paper examines the evolution of local recycled
water investment in Sydney to clearly identify what
is driving (or limiting) investment. In doing so, it
explains the nature and complexity of the
interactions between the social, environmental and
institutional context, and the decision to invest in
distributed recycled water systems, particularly the
impact on the evaluation of costs and benefits.
Watson, R, Fane, S & Mitchell, C 2013, 'Distributed recycled water systems - hard to justify in Sydney, but it's a great place to learn', Asia Pacific Water Recycling Conference, Brisbane.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
There are strong drivers for small recycled water systems in the wider Sydney area. However, a particular set of historical and contextual factors unique to Sydney limit the viability of small systems, and need to be overcome if small scale systems are to reach their potential to contribute to improving the value and overall robustness of the Sydney network. This paper identifies those factors and discusses why some of the factors also make Sydney a great place to test and learn from these new systems.
Watson, R, Mitchell, CA & Fane, S 2013, 'Distributed recycled water decisions - Ensuring continued private investment', Proceedings of ozwater'13, ozwater'13, Australian Water Association (AWA), Perth, Australia, pp. 1-7.
Watson, R 2012, 'Impacts of distributed recycled water schemes: Examining the costs and benefits of distributed recycled water, with Sydney specific case studies', OzWater'12: Sharing Knowledge, Planning the Future, Sydney, Australia.
Watson, R, Fane, S & Mitchell, CA 2012, 'How sustainability assessments using multi-criteria analysis can bias against small systems', Proceedings of the Small Water and Wastewater Systems National Conference, Small Water and Wastewater Systems National Conference, Australian Water Association (AWA), Newcastle, NSW, pp. 1-7.
Raucher, R, Henderson, J, Atwater, R, Rosenblum, E, Watson, R, Chong, J, Basoli, D, Callow, D & Miles, E 2019, Challenges and Successful Strategies for Pricing Reuse Water - Final Report, Colorado, USA.
This report provides practical information to assist utilities and other water sector professionals, as the grapple with the challenges of setting prices, generating revenues and recovering costs from the provisions of reuse water, with a focus on non-potable reuse.
This research was funded by the Water Research Foundation under project 4662.
Watson, R, Fane, S & Prentice, E 2018, Recycled Water scheme survey, Univeristy of Technology Sydney.
The risks associated with recycled water and stormwater harvesting schemes are varied and complex – reflecting the many different permutations of source water and end-uses. This project reviews, analyses and reports on the range of water recycling schemes and stormwater harvesting schemes that are being operated or are being planned by metropolitan councils and private operators to assist with the regulation and management of these schemes.
ISF were engaged to review Hunter Water's demand management strategy. This involved reviewing existing and past water efficiency programs, identifying relevant programs from other jurisdictions that could be adapted to the Hunter Water context and recommending short, medium and long-term priorities for implementation.
Existing water supplies in the Perth and Peel region of Western Australia are insufficient to meet projected unconstrained water demands for a city of 3.5 million people. Developing non-potable recycled water supplies can require significant investment, both in terms of time and funds. Investment in the development of recycled water is more likely to be attractive where the arrangements for securing the wastewater resource to be reused are as clear and predictable as possible, including the volumes available, the charges they will have to pay and the time period of the agreement. This reports investigates the current arrangements for securing wastewater (either treated or untreated) across Australia in terms of:
• The level of clarity and ease of process that they provide to potential non-potable water users;
• Any effects on the interests of the existing wastewater service providers and their existing customers.
It compares and contrasts the alternative methods of securing wastewater for recycling and provides a synthesis of lessons learnt and implications for implementation for both the public utility and the third parties seeking wastewater resources for the purposes of producing recycled water.
Across sectors, innovative data collection at a device level and command and control appliances, are providing an opportunity for improved resource efficiencies, facilities management and user experiences. The applications of intelligent technologies and localised networks are growing rapidly.
This discussion paper demonstrates the value and potential applications of smart water management technologies specifically focused on commercial bathroom products. The work was commissioned by the GWA Bathrooms and Kitchens Group. The paper has been developed using available knowledge, with a literature scan of fixture driven innovations, innovations in collecting and using data from fixtures and other monitoring devices.
Ongoing challenges of urban growth, climate change and climate variability are driving a need to revisit water efficiency as an option in many regions, including CHW.
The value of the renewed and reinvigorated investment in water efficiency is explicitly recognized by the Victorian Government's "Water for Victoria" plan, particularly Action 5.3. Customers also continue to expect utilities to invest in water efficiency.
This report synthesizes the full range of water efficiency programs conducted across Australia and assesses their potential for adoption by CHW using a combination of detailed data analytics and stakeholder engagement. In recommends a renewed and reinvigorated water efficiency program building on both precious experience and the latest advancements in water efficiency programs,
Meeting the needs of growing populations; improving resilience and managing climate change impacts; maintaining and replacing ageing infrastructure; reflecting shifting community expectations; and maintaining affordability remain real challenges for the water industry. There is general agreement that traditional approaches to water planning and delivery will fail to adequately address the challenges facing the water industry.
IWM and recycled water have the potential to help Hunter Water respond to a number of challenges and opportunities it will face over the next 20 years. Although a range of recycled water opportunities have been identified in the Hunter Region, implementation remains challenging. This report helps to explains why and identify areas for influence and change. It sets the baseline for existing knowledge from which to develop a richer picture of Hunter Water-specific opportunities and barriers.
The Synthesis Report clearly articulates what drives our current investment patterns in large scale infrastructure and what limits our investment in recycled water and alternative solutions. It builds on a recent PhD funded by Sydney Water to investigate the costs, benefits, barriers, and opportunities concerning distributed recycled water systems in Sydney. In addition, the report reviews, updates, and synthesises current policy settings, practices, and insights from published and grey literature, and from Hunter Water staff, alongside insights from other jurisdictions in Australia and internationally.
Although the many benefits of recycled water are well documented,
experience has highlighted substantial and complex challenges in planning, implementing and operating successful schemes. Hunter Water Corporation (HWC) took a systems thinking approach to explore decentralised and centralised recycled water and IWM options with the aim of highlighting constraints to decentralised and IWM options and gaps in either knowledge, analysis or decision making processes.
The research seeks to address three question:
• How can we demonstrate and capture the value of recycled water, and in
particular the options value it gives Hunter Water in avoiding large (water supply and wastewater) investments?
• Why are our intuitions (i.e. the value of recycled water) not borne out in our
• How could we change that?
Although these questions might seem simple, the complex recycled water investment environment means there are no easy answers. To make progress, we must explore and grapple with complexity. The deeply collaborative systems approach adopted for this project employed different tools that open up new ways of thinking and acting that can help us work out what to do next, despite complexity.
ISF prepared a Decision Making Framework to guide decision making within QUU from strategic planning decisions through to those made at the implementation stage. the process ensures that the correct level of information is considered and that the right tool for each decision is used. A case example was prepared to illustrate how the process would work in practice. the Decision Making Framework is support by two guidebooks on cost-benefit analysis (CBA) and multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA).
Water utilities face increasing levels of uncertainty and complexity, at the same time as increasing and broadening performance expectations, and major shifts in institutional and regulatory structures. All this drives both evolution and revolution. Actively guiding the direction of evolution and revolution requires new skills and tools: Three Horizons is well-suited to facilitating transformative change where complexity and uncertainty prevail. Hunter Water Corporation’s 2017+3 Strategy signals a shift in strategic direction towards supporting the rapidly transforming aspirations of the region. Using Three Horizons to begin to map pathways to Hunter Water Corporation’s future produced new insights and profound learnings for participants.