UNE is a regional university, and it shares in the challenges of its region - including the current water shortages. The University is currently on the Level 5 water restrictions affecting Armidale. There have been rumours that UNE may need to close down some or all of its operations in response to the water crisis. There are no plans to do so. Business continuity planning is in progress for various drought scenarios so that UNE can be prepared if further water usage restrictions are required.
Water utilisation is being closely monitored across all business functions - including the residential colleges, community sports facilities, and our farms and research stations - so that the university can plan and implement appropriate adjustments when required. The University is New England's biggest employer, responsible for educating our current cohort of students and new students to come. UNE management does not underestimate the gravity of the situation if dam-filling rains do not fall in this region over the next year.
However, UNE is drawing on the resourcefulness that it has needed to survive and prosper as Australia's first regional university, and is investigating what it takes to thrive in times when reliable conventional water supplies are no longer guaranteed. This is not just a business challenge for the University. It is part of UNE's original brief that it is "of the regions, for the regions".
We value our role in the community, and must contribute to the wider community dialogue around ongoing drought impact management. The current drought and water crisis hitting Australia's regional communities and other regions globally warns us of the impact of climate change, and much else besides: population growth, wasteful practices, poor policy, inadequate environmental planning. UNE is purpose-built to address these issues on behalf of our regional communities. In addressing them, the University will re-imagine water usage and expand its understanding of how its own business must adapt and innovate to meet the challenges of a fast-changing world. And adapt and innovate we will, because UNE is not going away.
Brigid Heywood is the vice chancellor of UNE
The story COMMENT - UNE plans for a water-constrained future first appeared on The Armidale Express.