Georgians who want to learn first hand how to better cope with severe drought – and even how to profit from it – should attend an international convention next month in Australia, the head of a water group in that country suggests.

The Ozwater ‘09 conference will be held in Melbourne March 16-18.

“It gives a tremendous policy, technology, business overview of what is going on in  Australia,” said Joe Flynn, chief executive officer of the Water Industry Alliance, a nonprofit group based in Adelaide, Australia. “Especially in times of economic downturn, the businesses, the governments that get smart with this stuff, really can create a competitive advantage.”

Australia, always a dry continent, has been even drier in recent years. In 2002, the Murray River stopped flowing before it reached its terminal point at the Southern Ocean, That has threatened two large freshwater lakes, which authorities may have to flood with seawater if the drought persists.

In January, the temperature in South Australia reached 115 degrees fahrenheit. Then, deadly wildfires erupted, with some scientists saying climate change contributed to the severity of the blazes.

“The state I live in, South Australia, is the driest state on the world’s driest inhabited continent,” said Mr. Flynn. “We’ve always had to be water smart. But innovation has really had to accelerate in the last 10-15 years. We’ve recognized the need for action. That’s really been hastened by a much greater awareness of climate change. “

Start-up companies have been launched throughout Australia offering new water-saving products and technologies. And they are exporting. In June, Mr. Flynn accompanied representatives from eight Australian companies who stopped in Atlanta on a trade mission to promote their water-saving products. He was back again in January, accompanied by Paul Dalby, a consultant to another Australian nonprofit group, the International Center of Excellence in Water Resource Management.

Dr. Dalby and Mr. Flynn met with Amanda Hodges, Australia’s consul general and trade commissioner in Atlanta.

Georgia has been experiencing its own water problems in recent years. In the fall of 2007, during a particularly dry year, Georgia environmental officials warned that metro Atlanta only had a 90-day supply of water left. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers later reduced the amount of water it released from Lake Lanier for downstream users.

Ozwater ‘09 includes a trade show featuring the latest products and technology in the water industry and a series of workshops with speakers from all over the world who will discuss policy issues and many other topics. There will also be tours of facilities in Australia where cutting-edge technology is used to save water.

For more information on the conference, click here