There are few more precious commodities than water – especially when it comes to the agricultural supply chain, and the local communities it operates in.
University of Southern Queensland researchers are taking a deep dive into the issue, leading an Australian-first project for the red meat processing sector with a focus on a water stewardship.
Commissioned by the Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC), the project looks to increase knowledge of water stewardship in relation to red meat processing through the development of ‘Catchment Mapping and Stakeholder Engagement Guidelines’ specifically for the industry.
Professor Bernadette McCabe, Director of the Centre for Agricultural Engineering at the University of Southern Queensland will lead the project.
“Water stewardship is defined as the use of water that is socially and culturally equitable, environmentally sustainable, and economically beneficial,” she said.
“For industry, good water stewardship is about reducing water intensity, making a commitment to improve local water quality and communicating that back to the community,” she said.
“To date, water management and conservation for red meat processors has been largely focused on site-based water efficiency measures. Our project will take that good work one step forward to help processors understand their catchment challenges, tackle indirect water use and strengthen their relationship with their local community to create two-way awareness around sensitive water areas.”
The project will abide by the International Water Stewardship Standard, set by the Alliance for Water Stewardship, and be supported by a team from The Ecoefficiency Group who are long-term providers to AMPC.
“We’ve learnt so much from The Ecoefficiency Group who are all credited specialists for the Alliance for Water Stewardship,” Professor McCabe said.
“It’s a great opportunity to cross collaborate with a different organisation with the same innovative goals for industry.”
Dr Kathryn Reardon-Smith, Research Fellow, at the University’s Centre for Applied Climate Sciences and Senior Lecturer, School of Agriculture and Environmental Science is also involved and said the project will ultimately offer win-win outcomes.
“When water challenges or water risks are approached collaboratively, the results are far more positive and can achieve significant outcomes such as increased drought resilience,” she said.
“The overarching project is a true example of good collaboration, with AMPC being Members of the Southern Queensland Northern New South Wales Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub led by the University of Southern Queensland.
“The outcome of this work is set to support the resilience of local agricultural communities into the future.”
Two red meat processors will be selected to road test the guidelines in the coming weeks.
“We’re really looking forward to seeing the guidelines in practice and exploring the opportunity to pilot this water stewardship program to other industries as well,” Dr Reardon-Smith said.