The 16th International River Symposium
was held in Brisbane last week. The symposium is a valuable forum for natural resource managers, waterway engineers and practitioners and policy makers in the water industry. Its international flavour is one of its key features with several enlightening international papers and keynote presentations on current trends and works with overseas waterways.
Whilst the overall theme for the Symposium was ‘Water – Energy – Food’, there were a few more specific themes that caught my attention. One was that of Coal Seam Gas (CSG) developments in Australia, and particularly in Queensland. With papers presented largely by industry groups and regulators, it appears that the water issues associated with CSG are still to be satisfactorily resolved.
A couple of papers stood out – one by Andrew Briggs from North East Catchment Management Authority (NECMA) in Victoria on their efforts to find better alternatives to mass burning of willow stockpiles generated by their continuing program of willow removal in waterways. The NECMA developed a portable unit which converts the willow material into carbon, suitable for alternative applications, using controlled oxygen combustion. At present the main application is returning the carbon to farmers’ fields where it improves the quality of soils.
The highlight paper for the conference, in my opinion, was presented by Israeli Amos Brandeis, on the collaborative efforts to rehabilitate the Alexander River which extends from Palestine into Israel (under the wall!). This involved very delicate negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian contingents, conducted in secret in a monastery in Germany. The logistics of collaboratively undertaking this project, without being seen to collaborate in any way, were extremely daunting. The outcome, largely achieved with a program of wastewater interception and treatment, together with landscaping and revegetation, has made the river a popular destination for picnics and other recreation activities. While this is not a recent project (it won the International River Prize a number of years ago), it is a great reminder of how important, and relatively easy, our consultative efforts are in improving our rivers.
Image of the Alexander River Israel from Wikipedia