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BOKU sets new standards with launch of hydraulic engineering 'River Lab'

14 years ago, the idea of a hydraulic engineering laboratory was born at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences – BOKU – in Vienna. After over a decade of drafting ideas, planning, and building, the new River Lab opened to great ceremony on June 12th.

Copyright Ferdinand Bakanic

This groundbreaking hydraulic engineering laboratory is unique worldwide and will enable fundamental and applied research of the Danube River. The innovative facility is 90-meters long and recreates a river passage up to 25-meters wide. As rivers and freshwater systems come under increasing pressure due to human intervention, the need for a dedicated research facility of this scale and functionality is clear.

Initiator and project manager Prof. Helmut Habersack, Head of the Institute for Hydraulic Engineering, Hydraulics and River Research at BOKU, believes that the new facility will promote much needed knowledge about the use and protection of rivers; putting Austria on the international stage as a location for excellence in river-related research. In outlining the technical capacity of the facility, Prof. Habersack explained the river lab has a flow rate of 10,000 liters per second without pumps, and can enable model tests up to 1:1.

Research topics at the BOKU River Lab include the movement of water and sediments, ecology and the use of watercourses, flood risk management (from flood plains to mobile flood protection), river (re)construction with a focus on solid matter balance, renewable energies such as sustainable hydropower, and waterways and low-water management during drought under climate change.

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In attendance at the launch were the Mayor and Governor of Vienna Michael Ludwig, Governor of Lower Austria Johanna Mickl-Leitner, Minister for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility Innovation and Technology Leonore Gewessler, Minister for Education, Science and Research Martin Polaschek, Minister for Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management Norbert Totschnig and the Minister for Labour and Economy Martin Kocher. BOKU Rector Eva Schulev-Steindl also attended alongside a host of EU officials, as did the many project partners and longtime acquaintances of the Institute.

In his opening speech Prof. Habersack spoke of the history of the building, where the first ideas came from and how - over many years of work and coordination - the project took shape. He also spoke about current research projects and plans for future projects, including DANUBE4all and the planned Danube Basin Restoration Action Plan.

As part of the opening, a poster exhibition was held in order to highlight the various ongoing projects and give insight into current research. The ‘Open Door Day’ on June 13th also gave the public the opportunity to come visit the building, learn about the concept and science behind it, and discover what possibilities the new facility offers. Researchers and staff were on hand to provide details of DANUBE4all and other projects currently being conducted.

Playback of the launch, including all speaker presentations, is available here (German language, however auto-translate to different language is available via video settings).

Copyright Allison O'Reilly

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