World water crisis leads agenda at river symposium

Flowing river

Griffith University expertise and leadership on global water issues will be an important part of the 2015 International Riversymposium, which begins in Brisbane on Monday.

Healthy Rivers, Healthy Economies is the theme of the event, of which Griffith is a founding partner. Running until Wednesday, September 23, it brings together representatives from more than 40 countries to seek solutions on freshwater sustainability and management.

At the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in January, the decline in the quality and quantity of freshwater was declared the greatest risk facing the planet.

“From an environmental and economic viewpoint, there can be no underestimating how important healthy rivers and catchments are for a sustainable and prosperous world,” says the Director of Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute, Professor Stuart Bunn.

Headshot of Professor Stuart Bunn, Director of Griffith University's Australian Rivers Institute
ARI Director Professor Stuart Bunn

“Events such as this symposium facilitate the kind of discussion and collaboration on river and water management that leads to innovative ideas and shared strategies across all sectors of society.”

The Brisbane event has identified five main topics­–l­inking people, rivers and business; sustainable development of rivers; restoring rivers and their multiple values; adapting to change; and integrated river basin management.

With more than 20 keynote addresses and 10 special sessions, hot topics on the agenda include increasing private sector engagement in river basin partnerships; reconciling hydropower and river fragmentation; bringing together mining, environment and society; community involvement in large-scale river developments; indigenous water rights; and mainstreaming aquatic ecosystem services.

In the Australian context, the symposium will also explore the sustainabledevelopment of Northern Australia’s near-pristine water resources; protecting the Great Barrier Reef from river and catchment pollution; balancing healthy waterways with economic development; and new ways of living with flooding in urban centres.

“A highlight of the 2015 program, from both a Queensland and Griffith perspective, will be the official launch of the Sustainable Water Future Program (SWFP)” says Professor Bunn.

Previously known as the Global Water System Project and hosted by the University of Bonn in Germany, the SWFP will operate at Griffith as a core project ofFuture Earth; the new international research platform providing knowledge and support to accelerate transformations to a sustainable world.

Executive Officer Dr Anik Bhaduri will relocate from Bonn to Brisbane later this year to lead the International Secretariat of the program.