Emerging Water Professionals reflect on International Riversymposium

Emerging Water Professionals reflect on International Riversymposium

The International WaterCentre had a number of staff, students and Alumni in attendance at this year’s International Riversymposium held in Brisbane 18 – 20 September 2017. Hear from some of our current students and Alumni on their experience as part of the Emerging Water Professionals Program.

Emerging Water Professionals reflect on International Riversymposium

Some of the MIWM students in attendance at the 20th International Riversymposium in Brisbane this month


As part of the International RiverFoundation’s Emerging Water Professionals Program (EWPP), a number of International WaterCentre (IWC) students participated in a tailored program of activities during the recent 20th International Riversymposium and Environmental Flows Conference hosted in Brisbane earlier this month.

The EWPP fosters education and innovation in water management by supporting the professional and personal development of future water leaders. Launched in 2015 as part of the International Riversymposium, the EWPP is open to anyone who is within the first ten years of their career, and identifies as an emerging water professional – including postgraduate students and early career professionals. Participants from any related discipline are welcome, including science, policy, planning, community development, business, governance, aid, development and many more. Below IWC Master of Integrated Water Management students and Alumni reflect on their experience at this year’s Riversymposium and participating in the EWPP.

Students share their experience

Simon Ross – Australia

“There were so many opportunities to connect not just with people at my stage of career development and interests, but also senior professionals and people working on the front line. Even the keynotes were accessible and open to sharing their experience and knowledge, which was great. There was a big focus not just on the environmental but also the social and cultural dimensions of river flows, which is really important. The best thing was that the conference had both diversity and a community feel. It seemed as though people with more experience were inviting those wishing to contribute to step up and make a difference. That to me is the real value of this conference. There were a range of pioneer species looking to fill the gaps in the riparian forest.”

Safaa Aldirawi – Palestine

“I’m Safaa Aldirawi from Palestine. I’m an Australia Awards scholar studying the Master of Integrated Water Management and I’m doing the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) stream which is highly related to the issues in my home country particularly in the water sector. Attending the International Riversymposium and Environmental Flows Conference and being a part of the Emerging Water Professionals Program provided me a great opportunity to gain exposure to new ideas and studies related to environmental issues. It was great to learn from the global expertise and experience in sustainable and resilient river management, meeting new friends and building networks. As I’m now working on my research proposal for the final project next semester, meeting experts helped me to improve my ideas for my research. Attending several sessions about Sustainable Development Goals also gave me a deeper understanding of current global action which helps me to build my research question and objectives for my final project.”

Emerging Water Professionals Program – MIWM student Shenbagameenal Surendran reflects

“I am Shenbagameenal from India currently studying the Master of Integrated Water Management and this was my first time attending the International RiverSymposium. The International River Foundation has tailored the Emerging Water Professionals Program (EWPP) in 2015, which brings in cross-sectoral and cross-generational collaboration. I cherished the opportunity given to me to participate in the EWPP 2017. My first session was the team-building session conducted as a part of the EWPP at the Musgrave Park; by the end two hours of fun filled sessions all the 40 participants around 22 countries became familiar with each other identity and professional background.

The 20th IRS was inaugurated with acknowledging the traditional owners of the land the “Jagara people” by virtue of the traditional dance in which all the attendees of the symposium were encouraged to participate in the ritual. The traditional dance brought a sense of connectedness to the land and among the people from different parts of the world. One of the highlights of my participation during the conference was listening to Dr Anne Poelina’s presentation on “Guardians of Mardoowara”, where she discussed how a woman champion leader like her can create a positive movement among the community. Her presentation also emphasised the significance of traditional knowledge and how the traditional owners emphasised the right of the river and environmental flows.

EWPP also tailored a special session for emerging professionals with the International WaterCentre Leadership Specialist Andre Taylor. The theme of the session was importance of social networking, which could not be more relevant to the conference. The session emphasised the importance of active listening and mutual benefits to transform from a professional to a water leader. Also the self-assessment exercise made me realise the need to improve my strategic networking skills.

Prof LeRoy Poff emphasised the importance of integrated water management to achieve food, energy and water security without compromising the environmental flows on his keynote presentation. The special session by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade chaired by Russell Rollason on “Achieving SDG 6 at home and overseas” was also critical. In the session Dr Eva Abal described the importance of Integrated Water Resource Management and a whole system approach to achieve the SDGs. She also emphasised the need for achieving equity and human rights among the rural and indigenous communities of Australia. Michael Wilson noted the three pillars of world development are universal access, resilience and evidence-based management. While the presentation by Unity Water iterated the important role of private entities in achieving SDGs. Partha Susarla also mentioned the cost savings provided by water sensitive urban design (green infrastructure) over grey infrastructure.

The sessions I cherish and enjoyed attending most include interacting with Dr Bill Young at the special networking session and also listening to his keynote presentation on water security. I am an engineer who enjoys working with numbers and modelling but I am also keen on contributing towards transboundary cooperation. Before the conference I was not clear how an engineer could participate in transboundary river management, but Bill highlighted the power of global assessment on creating awareness over policy changes. He also mentioned the need for international infrastructural development among transboundary rivers along with the national infrastructure development. This made to me realise how I can use my analytical and modelling skill in transboundary river management.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank IWC and IRF for providing the opportunity to participate. Special thanks to EWPP coordinator Vanh Mixap for making sure each one of EWP had a productive and rewarding symposium.”

Emerging River Professional Award

The Emerging River Professional Award (ERPA), sponsored by OceanaGold Corporation and managed by the International WaterCentre Alumni Network, recognises, rewards and fosters those in the early stages of their careers in rivers. The award is presented to those who have demonstrated innovation, excellence and leadership in river, basin or river-dependent community management and is open internationally to all river professionals of all disciplines who have been working in their field for ten years or less, and have demonstrated exceptional and measurable achievements in rivers, basins or river-dependent communities.

In 2017 the ERPA was awarded to Lauren Zielinsko for her outstanding work in creating a monitoring and adaptive management framework for environmental flows. Read more about Lauren and her work here.

About the International Riversymposium

Hosted by the International RiverFoundation, the International Riversymposium provides a platform for river managers, policy developers, scientists, consultants, NGOs and community organisations to share knowledge and innovative ideas on all aspects of river and water management. By facilitating partnerships between key stakeholders, the International Riversymposium celebrates the environmental, economic and social value of rivers across the globe. The symposium provides an international forum for examining best practice in river and watershed management. Learn more here.

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