Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Western NSW Branch Meeting 2023-4

Professor Lee Baumgartner “Thirst for power — the rivers of conflict in Southeast Asia”

Professor Lee Baumgartner
Executive Director, Gulbali Institute for Agriculture, Water, and Environment
Charles Sturt University

Date: Thursday, 16 November 2023, 6.00 — 8.00 pm (AEDT)
Venue: Gum's Cafe, Thurgoona, Charles Sturt University, Albury
Video presentation: YouTube video
All are welcome

This meeting is a joint presentation of Charles Sturt University and the Western NSW Branch of the Royal Society of NSW

Summary: Water is life. Nowhere is this more significant than in Australia, the driest continent on Earth, and in Southeast Asia, where tens of millions of people rely on healthy rivers to provide ecosystem services. Ecosystem services include clean and safe river water, fish and other aquatic animals for protein and livelihoods, water for cultural benefits, industry, irrigation, and agriculture. However, with growing regional populations, river development infrastructure has become increasingly essential to provide these services. Storage dams, hydropower dams, storage weirs, irrigation infrastructure, and diversion systems are all ways in which water is harnessed to provide societal benefits and are now commonplace.

However, it is now widely accepted that these can lead to adverse environmental outcomes. This, combined with a changing climate, is putting more pressure on freshwater resources than ever before. In recent times this has resulted in large-scale fish kills, drying rivers, dwindling town supplies, and deteriorating water quality. Without intervention, the future of water security in Australia and Southeast Asia will be dominated by increased competition for a resource that is becoming increasingly scarce. Future water management must consider scenarios that combine technical solutions, sound policy, and strategies for water sharing which consider all water users. This Provocations lecture will take a journey across Australia and Southeast Asia, exploring water security challenges and the innovative ways that communities are developing healthy rivers, in a changing climate, with growing regional populations.

Professor Lee Baumgartner, the Executive Director of Gulbali Institute for Agriculture, Water, and Environment at Charles Sturt University, is a Professor in Fisheries and River Management and an applied researcher who has worked in the fisheries field for over 20 years. Lee is passionate about healthy rivers and helping fisheries worldwide, and has achieved substantial food security outcomes in countries working within the food-water-energy nexus. Lee’s high-impact research focuses on developing and applying innovative technology in ecohydrology to reduce pressure on freshwater systems. Specifically, his work focuses on irrigation and hydropower sustainability, using innovation to ensure river communities can have food, water, and energy. Lee’s multi-disciplinary work requires collaboration with engineers, functional ecologists, and water professionals.

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