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New hub to facilitate waterway management in regional Australia

Charles Sturt University researchers are set to lead a new $3.6 million research hub to facilitate the next wave of waterway management in regional Australia.

Funded by the Australian Government, the Next Generation Water Engineering and River Management Hub (NGWERMH) will be led by Charles Sturt’s Institute for Land, Water and Society, including staff from the School of Indigenous Australian Studies and water engineers from the School of Computing, Mathematics and Engineering.

The research will be collaborative – involving Australian and international industry partners, universities, researchers and businesses, as well as First Nations Elders – to develop solutions to the current and future water challenges faced by Australia’s inland waterways.

Leading the hub, Professor Lee Baumgartner said the NGWERMH will facilitate out-of-the-box ideas for water management in regional Australia.

“It will act as an opportunity for us to trial innovative approaches for water management solutions which regional Australia needs but which don’t really fit under any of the current frameworks,” Baumgartner said.

“These ideas include partnering with a university in Germany to scope a design of a revolutionary new hydro power station, and creating a partnership with First Nations Elders in the Northern Basin to co-design an approach to restore traditional, cultural ways of managing fisheries.

Charles Sturt University collaborates with our partners on research with impact, which is precisely what the Next Generation Water Engineering and River Management Hub will produce.”

The NGWERMH will undertake a raft of projects, including partnering with German researchers to implement best-practice design of a fish-safe hydro power station - the first time this technology has been applied in Australia.

Restoring traditional fish management strategies and techniques of First Nations people in the Northern Basin will also be a focus, as well as implementing a community-led fish tagging program and field testing an innovative ‘fish pump’ to provide fish migrations at large dams.

There will also be a partnership with an American agency that has developed a remote water-quality testing unit which provides real-time data.

The NGWERMH will also be partnering with UNSW’s 70 year old water research laboratory.

Minister for Education and Youth the Alan Tudge said the hub will continue the work of fostering strong cross-institutional collaborations between research and industry.

“We want our world-class research to be at the forefront of our economic and social success and we want regional universities to be a big part of that,” Tudge said.

“By linking universities with local businesses, we increase the opportunity for findings to be translated into practical solutions that could then be commercialised, with benefits for the university, businesses and local jobs.

“I want to see more world-changing new ideas and revolutionary products developed right in our own backyard in regional Australia.”

The NGWERMH is also set to support eight new, regionally-based research positions within the university.

The funding is the latest in almost $40 million realised this year for Charles Sturt-led research and partnerships in agriculture, water and the environment.