Water in my life
Water has been an important part of my life. My Henderson ancestors were several generations of sea-faring sailors from the north-east of Scotland and I have sea-faring polynesian ancestry on my mother’s side. My father grew up a surfer in Manly in the 1950s, and consequently I have many fond memories of holidays spent at the beach. Primary school years were spent in Fiji, where we lived opposite the reef and lagoon. Then, I found that the best environmental science subjects at university involved site visits to aquatic environments. However, my enthusiasm to become a marine scientist was tempered by my susceptibility to seasickness – in any breeze above 12 knots! So I refocussed on urban environments and found an interesting honours project in the botany department working on the impacts of stormwater on coastal heathlands.
Trying to make a difference
Work followed and for several years I studied the declining health of our rivers and bays in Queensland. Finding this a depressing situation and seeking to be part of the solution to this problem, I signed up at Griffith University to do some post-graduate research into the treatment effectiveness of bioretention systems. I built experimental bioretention systems in wheelie bins, and used them to show that plants play an important role in nitrogen removal from stormwater (refer Figures).
With that research experience, I was lucky enough to get a job in the industry as a WSUD consultant, and have been there ever since. Much of my work involves integrating ecology and engineering – using masterplanning and engineering design to provide ecosystem services such as water filtration, habitat, stable landscapes and amenity. Being part of a large company has given me exposure to some weird urban environments – landfills, defence bases, industrial sites, contaminated public open space, highways and rail, streetscapes and drainage. I play my part in designing mitigation for the impacts of these developments on hydrology, and helping my colleagues to understand their influence on the water cycle and their role in creating water sensitive cities.
Stormwater Queensland Committee
As part of the committee, I get involved in our advocacy work to help governments make decisions that are based on the best experience in our industry, and I help out with training and events so that we can all get access to the knowledge that we will need to create water sensitive cities and liveable urban environments.