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Catchment Risk Assessment in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu - AWARF

Catchment Risk Assessment in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu - AWARF

Photo © Bronwyn Powell (IWC)


IWC researchers have discovered that we can sucessfully transfer approaches developed in Australia to enhance sustainable water management in developing countries.

Project Category: Applied Research

Key Areas of Work: Catchment management,Integrated Water Resource Management,Public health

Project Date: Mar 11, 2007

Many Pacific Island nations face similar challenges in water management to Australia, even though they have much higher rainfall, increasing population and urbanisation, conflicting land and water uses, and multiple risks to water supply.

Water connects humans, our activities and our health, both physical and socio-economic, with the surrounding environment.  Water is directly or indirectly related to all seven of the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals, which also explicitly recognise its importance with a specific target to halve the number of people without sustainable access to clean water and sanitation by 2015.

Researchers from The University of Queensland, the International WaterCentre and Monash University investigated how we in Australia, via the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), could assist developing countries in moving toward sustainable water management.  Specifically, they worked in a catchment called the Kongulai, which supplies the bulk of water to Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands.  Although the Solomons has high rainfall, there are still problems in supplying enough clean water to the community.

The researchers brought together representatives from the range of groups affecting and affected by water in the catchment, including traditional landowner clans, and government and non-governmental organisations, and involved them in the development of a computer model of water in the catchment. This model takes into account the entire water cycle as it moves from the atmosphere as rainfall and flows through the environment in and over the ground, through vegetation and animals, into rivers, streams and other waterbodies, through the various human uses of water, and back into the atmosphere. This whole-of-water cycle thinking as well as long-term planning and assessment of risk were key concepts to be introduced across the community.

The involvement of all groups from the very beginning of the project was essential in developing trust in the process and the model and its outcomes, and building relationships between the different groups.  This involvement also ensured the model took into account the best information available from an inaccessible and little-studied area.

The model itself, as well as the process used to develop it, have resulted in a number of positive outcomes.  The visual basis for the model improved communication between people with very different educational backgrounds. The model also allowed water managers to compare the impact of different management actions such as water treatments for sediment or for disease. It also identified current gaps in measured data.  Local partners in the project from government agencies are now looking at using similar techniques with community involvement and computer modelling in other catchments under the mentorship of our research team.

In Vanuatu a similar methodology used with a local catchment management committee, is empowering community members to engage with government and work together to better manage their catchment. The processes developed through the research have wider applicability throughout the Pacific.


Research partners


Read more about the Australian Water Research Facility (AWRF)


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