ICWRGC, in partnership with the Southern Africa Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL) and the Namibian University for Science and Technology (NUST), is excited to announce the call for 15 fully funded PhD scholarships. The SASSCAL Graduate Studies Programme in Integrated Water Resources Management (SGSP – IWRM) is a collaborative effort to address the capacity needs of the regional water sector for highly qualified professionals in Southern Africa. The SGSP-IWRM is fully funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
More information about the program’s focus, eligibility, and how to apply can be found here:
ICWRGC Collaborating on New PhD Programme to Advance Water Science in Southern Africa
ICWRGC is part of the team working to build the foundation of the new PhD programme in Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), along with the Southern Africa Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL) and the Namibian University of Science and Technology (NUST). The overarching objective of the SASSCAL Graduate Studies Programme in Integrated Water Resources Management (SGSP-IWRM) is the development of innovative, excellent and collaborative education and research at PhD degree level, complemented by selected tailor-made training programmes for decision-makers and industry.
Fifteen scholarships have been provided to students from Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zambia to enroll in a three-year programme.
The key themes of the research program include:
Hydrology and Hydrogeology
Climate Change, Water Security, and the Environment
Water for Sustainable Agriculture and Health Systems
Governance, Economics, and Rights in the Water Sector
The thesis projects that the students will complete have been identified by the Academic and Scientific Advisory Committee (ASAC) because of their relevance in advancing the scientific agenda of the southern African region. Student research will be supervised by faculty at NUST, as well as by an international team of German and southern African experts. To prepare the students to carry out the research, the students will engage in common blocks of coursework to deepen their familiarity with IWRM concepts and advanced technical tools. The course of study will also include a research period in Germany hosted by a German institution.
Dr. Luna Bharati is a member of the ASAC, while ICWRGC Director Harald Köthe provides key implementation support and leadership.
Promoting capacity building: UNESCO Centres ICWRGC and IRTCES organize joint UNESCO Training Workshop on Sediment Monitoring for Sustainable River Management in collaboration with the BfG
From 6th to 10th September 2021, the International Centre for Water Resources and Global Change (ICWRGC), the International Research and Training Center on Erosion and Sedimentation (IRTCES, Peking) and the German Federal Institute of Hydrology (BfG) hosted the five-day training workshop “River Basin Sediment Monitoring and Management”. Held as a virtual event, many sediment experts from 25 countries attended the workshop under the umbrella of the UNESCO’s International Sediment Initiative (ISI). The focus was on empowering developing countries to help themselves.
Participants of the UNESCO training workshop
Channelizing rivers, deepening fairways and constructing dams – human activities in and along rivers have brought about fundamental changes in water discharge and sediment balances. Sustainable sediment management helps to adjust sediment surpluses or deficits of a disturbed sediment balance, thus reducing negative impacts on the ecosystem, water management, flood protection and navigation. The BfG can draw on its long-standing experience in national sediment and erosion research and advice, gained in collaboration with other agencies and organizations, in particular in the fields of sediment management and river bed development. On the international level, this issue is addressed by the UNESCO’s International Sediment Initiative whose secretariat is hosted by the International Research and Training Center on Erosion and Sedimentation (IRTCES, Peking). The ICWRGC is committed to global exchange of water data, including data on sediments.
The five-day workshop was aimed at sharing this expertise to support developing countries, in particular, in building up their own abilities in these areas, an approach called “capacity building” in technical language, commonly known as the idea of “helping people to help themselves”. BfG and ICWRGC staff also seized the opportunity to enter into direct dialogue with other researchers, taking advantage of their experiences and skills. Co-initiator Renee van Dongen says: “We are delighted at the positive response within the expert community. In total, 36 participants from academic, governmental and non-governmental organizations and businesses, mainly from Africa and Asia, followed our invitation.”
Participants by country
Challenges for international sediment management
Three interactive keynote speeches provided insights into the challenges of sediment monitoring and sediment management in large river basins. Representing the IRTCES in Peking, Professor Liu Cheng spotlighted the challenging conditions along China’s major river courses. Professor Helmut Habersack of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, reported on sediment strategies on the European Rhine and Danube rivers. The third keynote presentation, delivered by Professor Juan Restrapo of the Colombian School of Administration, Finance and Technological Institute, pointed out human pressures on sediment loads in Latin America with a focus on the Magdalena river in Colombia.
Following the keynote input, the event offered opportunities for the participants to deepen their knowledge on suspended sediments and bedload monitoring, sediment balancing as well as working with global sediment data, guided by internationally renowned specialists, including BfG and ICWRGC experts. “We have many years of experience in sediment monitoring and management, and this workshop provides an opportunity to share this expertise with our international partners”, says Thomas Hoffmann, one of the co-initiators at the BfG. The participants also discussed the results of the ongoing joint BfG/ICWRGC research project URSACHEN.
Initially planned as a face to face event in Koblenz in 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic prompted the organizers to switch to a blended-learning workshop held in collaboration with Professor Heribert Nacken’s UNESCO Chair at RWTH Aachen University and with the UNESCO International Sediment Initiative (ISI). The presentations and topical sessions had been recorded as interactive videos, followed by “personal” conference calls offering a platform for discussion and exchange on the learning contents.
At a later stage, the lectures and tutorials recorded, including the three keynote presentations, are due to be made freely available as Open Educational Resource (OER) material in the form of an online webinar. “The training workshop thus constitutes a contribution to the UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme and an early example of the use of OER approaches that are set to become increasingly relevant in the IHP’s ninth phase adopted last July,” underlines Stephan Dietrich of the ICWRGC.
The workshop revealed that the BfG’s and ICWRGC’s expertise in the fields of sediment monitoring and sediment management is in demand. In this context, digital learning offerings, such as OER, are a strategic option to enhance the quality of learning and knowledge sharing as well as political dialogue and capacity building – i.e. helping others to help themselves – in the field of research on a global scale.
German HÖRZU Magazine Interviews Harald Köthe, Director of ICWRGC
Harald Köthe, Director of ICWRGC, was interviewed by HÖRZU’s editor Melanie Koch within the scope of a major article on the topic “Trocknet unsere Erde aus?” (Is our earth drying up?). The article appeared in the 24 September 2021 issue. In detail it is about the increasing global freshwater scarcity, its causes and possible remedial action.
Ms. Koch interviewed Mr. Köthe on the topics freshwater resources, increasing water scarcity due to a growing world population and potential water saving measures. Further issues discussed were the role of climate change and the resulting global warming on the increase in weather extremes; water shortage and migration, solutions to combat the increasing water scarcity as well as the water footprint of agricultural goods, i.e. the amount of water needed to produce these goods.
A research initiative about climate change and environmental degradation in the Mediterranean Region
The initiative “Mediterranean Experts on Climate and Environmental Change” (MedECC) is committed to ensuring that the risks associated with environmental and climate change in the Mediterranean region are presented in a transparent and scientific way, thus providing a basis for political decision-making. The MedECC network consists of more than 600 scientists from 35 countries.
Our Centre is actively involved in this initiative with Dr. Marianela Fader as part of the Steering Committee, author of MedECC publications, and supervisor of educational activities (mainly Master theses in topics of interest to the initiative).
This initiative has been highly successful in the past, publishing an assessment report in 2020 (see below), winning the North South Prize 2020 of the European Council and being accepted in 2021 as member of the Mediterranean Commission for Sustainable Development (MCSD), a multi-stakeholder advisory body to the parties to the Barcelona Convention, under the auspices of UNEP / MAP. MedECC also directly contributes to the Flagship Initiative for the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development (MSSD), Objective 4 (Addressing climate change as a priority issue for the Mediterranean). It recommends “the establishment of a regional science-policy interface mechanism (…) with a view to preparing consolidated regional scientific assessments and guidance on climate change trends, impacts and adaptation and mitigation options”. Additionally, for the period 2022-2026, Plan Bleu, which hosts the MedECC secretariat, has been accepted as a member of the European Topic Centre on Climate Change Adaptation. MedECC will mainly contribute to this by further developing a science-policy interface and adding case studies to the Climate ADAPT platform.
MedECC will continue working in the future by compiling special Reports on a) Coastal risks , b) The climate-water-energy-food-ecosystems nexus, and c) Environmental change, conflict and human migration.
This year’s Hydrology Day (HD) was held – exceptionally in summer – in Potsdam on the Griebnitzsee campus under the motto “Hydrology – linking environmental spheres and disciplines”. Initially, the conference that is traditionally held around the World Water Day on 22 March, was supposed to begin in spring 2020. At that time however, only a reduced online-event was feasible.
The issues of the sessions were taken over from 2020, but for topical reasons supplemented by a further session on the flood disaster in Germany:
multisdiciplinary case examples
interdisciplinary methodological innovations
interactions between spheres
hydrological extremes and risks
analysis of the current flood and drought events in Germany
Overall, about 165 experts from federal and provincial administrations, universities, large-scale and departmental research as well as companies and associations attended the event in person under strict hygienic conditions. The lectures from science and practice were highly topical and showed latest findings at a high level, even on the current extreme events. The participants noticeably enjoyed being in personal contact once again to engage in professional and personal discussions. Congratulations not only to the lecturers and exhibitors, but also to the organization team led by Prof. Dr. Axel Bronstert.
As in previous years, ICWRGC and the Federal Institute of Hydrology (BfG) attended the HD each with their own booth, with ICWRGC presenting their most recent activities. During the poster session, the IHP/HWRP working group “FRIEND-Water/ERB” supported by ICWRGC and headed by Prof. Britta Schmalz, presented their current work on “Hydrological impacts of drought in the period 2018-2020 – analysis of lysimeter data and monitoring in small catchments”.
During HD, the elections for the Chair of the German Hydrological Society (DHG) were held. We most warmly congratulate Prof. Dr. Britta Schmalz on being elected new President, Prof. Dr. Axel Bronstert on being elected Vice-President as well as the further members of the managing and enlarged Board. We thank you for your commitment to hydrology in Germany. Mr. Harald Köthe, Director of the ICWRGC, and Ms. Petra Herzog, Head of Department for Quantitative Hydrology in BfG, attended the meeting of the Executive Board as guests.
Blanca Torres Vara from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) stayed at the ICWRGC from 15.10.2018–14.04.2019 to write her Master’s thesis dealing with “Nutrient Loads in South Africa”. She successfully completed this thesis in May 2019.
Cultural eutrophication is caused by the increase of anthropogenic nutrient loads and is one of the main water quality issues in the world, threatening biodiversity and human development. South Africa is especially vulnerable to the effects of eutrophication due to its reliance on reservoirs to supply water. The estimation of nutrient loads has been proved a powerful tool in the environmental management of nutrient pollution but it has yet not been implemented in South African environmental policy.
This Master’s thesis takes this opportunity and assesses spatial and temporal variability of total oxidized nitrogen and orthophosphate loads in South Africa from 1990 to 2018. It has the following threefold goals:
To improve the knowledge about the water quality status in South Africa with respect to nutrient loads, their influencing factors, such as land use or precipitation, and its future development.
To provide a tool for the environmental management of nutrient river loads. It identifies the areas most severely affected within the study area, allowing a better allocation of resources.
To serve as a pilot project for the development of integrated data products in the framework of the Global Terrestrial Network – Hydrology (GTN-H).
The study shows that the nutrient status in South African rivers has a strong seasonal component, 70% of the annual nutrient load is exported during the wet season. The segments assessed are split between nutrient sinks and nutrient sources for nitrogen and phosphate. The Limpopo, Vaal and Berg rivers have been identified as priority areas with regards of nutrient loads, mainly due to intense agriculture and urban development. The natural retention capacity shown in other river segments could provide an economical and environmental friendly nutrient management measure for such areas. The implementation of measures involving the estimation of river nutrient loads in South Africa is achievable with the data available and can contribute to ensure the water quality of South Africa in the future.
If you are interested in reading the entire pdf of the master thesis, you may contact Ms. Torres Vara at:
German UNESCO Commission Celebrates 70th Anniversary of its Founding
The accession of the Federal Republic of Germany to UNESCO in 1951 was a major step for reintegration into the international community. As an interface between UNESCO, civil society and government, the German UNESCO Commission (DUK) has pursued UNESCO’s founding idea ever since: „to anchor peace in the human mind“.
On this occasion, a 2-hour celebration was held at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn on 25 August. Der recorded livestream can be relived under https://youtu.be/NfjFDJQFA_4.
After words of appreciation from the UNESCO Director, Ms. Audrey Azoulay (Paris), the Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, Ms. Michelle Müntefering, and the Chair of the DUK, Prof. Dr. Maria Böhmer, the event was entirely dedicated to music. Music, through its tremendous uniting power across all boundaries, is at the heart of the cultural heritage of mankind and thus a UNESCO issue per se. The invited musicians made their art heard in great variety, and talked about it. What they all have in common is that they transcend borders in their art, in the best sense of the word, mix different styles and cultural influences or create something new by improvising. The music of the Hamdelaneh duo even made reference to water.
The Secretary General of DUK is i.a. member of the National Committee of the German Secretariat to the UNESCO Water Programme (IHP) at the ICWRGC.
UNESCO is a specialised agency of the United Nations for education, science and culture. It has 193 member states. Its headquarters are in Paris. It is the only UN-organisation with a worldwide network of National Committees.
MoU signed between IHE Delft (The Netherlands) and ICWRGC (Germany)
In the spirit of the new UNESCO IHP IX Strategic Plan (2022 – 2029) “Science for a Water Secure World in a Changing Environment”, the two UNESCO Category 2 Water Centres of the Netherlands and Germany signed a MoU to complement their different profiles and activities to strengthen their work and products together with the UN and UNESCO water family for the benefit of all. The future cooperation of both centres also aims at supporting water programmes of other UN organizations intending to implement the goals of the UN Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG 6 and its nexus to the other SDGs.
A better understanding of the earth´s system, the global water cycle and its changes under drivers such as climate change, socio-economic changes, globalization, limited natural resources etc. needs more and more interdisciplinary efforts. In this sense, the MoU is looking for synergies among the two centres. The agreement focuses on the following four key areas of cooperation:
Scientific research and innovation
by collaborating in MSc/PhD student supervision and research, staff exchange and mutually hosting students working on various topics in the field of water resources management.
Water Education and Capacity Development
Development and sharing of methods and tools based on new practices by the scientific community to translate scientific information into a format facilitating education, decision-making and policy formulation;teaching and learning materials on water-related matters for formal, non-formal andinformal education.
Bridging the data-knowledge gap Improve collection and quality assessment methods for water quality data (surface water and groundwater); disseminate best practices on data collection and use (i.e. data products) by developing Open Educational Resources on these topics; implement the work of GTN-H Global Terrestrial Network-Hydrology (ICWRGC responsible for water quality, IGRAC for groundwater, ISMN for soil moisture) in education and capacity development, in collaboration with other organizations such as UNESCO, WMO, UNEP, FAO, GEO (possibly within the framework of UN-Water).
Providing scientific support to water governance Support water diplomacy on transboundary aquifers with scientific products.
Aligned with the ninth phase of UNESCO IHP IX Strategic Plan (2022 – 2029), the MoU will be backed up with a working plan being tracked and adapted.
Dr. Fader, Deputy Director of ICWRGC, was interviewed within the scope of an article on a growing shortage of water resources. She discussed possible causes such as climate change and its impacts like a rising occurrence of extreme weather events, drought, decreasing precipitation and more frequent torrential rainfall that cannot be absorbed by the soil. Further reasons for water scarcity are increasing agricultural and tourism activities entailing extensive water consumption, especially in arid regions, which in turn results in an overuse of groundwater.
A further problem addressed by Marianela Fader is groundwater pollution by fertilizers, also in Germany. For years, Germany has been exceeding the nitrate threshold for groundwater, just like other EU member states.
Another reason for worldwide water shortage is a rising world population associated with an overuse of groundwater resources caused by extensive agriculture. Subsequently Dr. Fader explains the water footprint of products (the amount of water needed to produce goods) and makes suggestions how to save water. E.g. by entirely dispensing with products requiring a lot of water for their production or by cutting back on private consumption. Dr. Fader explains that water use has to be adapted to climate change, going along with climate protection by sustainable water resources management, e.g. the use of process water instead of drinking water in industry and agriculture.
„Women and Water“ is another essential topic of the interview. Water scarcity has very bad impacts on girls and women. In sub-Saharan Africa, girls and women often have to walk for hours to fetch water. In Latin America and Asia girls and women are also concerned by a lack of sanitation and access to clean water. „If you have to walk for hours to reach a water well, you can’t attend school”, says Marianela Fader. “And bad water causes health problems. This jeopardizes the economic independence of women and girls and promotes gender inequality“