For five days from the 21st to the 25th of August, the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna and the Austria Center Vienna played host to a trio of prestigious international Water Conferences, coming together under the umbrella of Vienna Water Conferences 2023.
The event celebrated the 40th anniversary of the IAHR World Congress, the 5th anniversary of the World’s Large Rivers Conference and the 30th anniversary of the Danube Conference.
Over 1,300 researchers and practitioners came together to exchange, discuss and learn from each other over the course of the 5-day event.
The IAHR World Congress placed particular focus on rivers as the lifelines connecting mountains and coast. We rely on rivers to provide our drinking water, energy, transportation, and navigation, as well as ecosystem services. However, rivers are strongly affected by climate and land use change and consequently facing a range of detrimental impacts from dramatically shifting environmental and human pressures.
The International Conference on The Status and Future of the World’s Large Rivers provided a global forum for a wide-ranging discussion of key issues related to research on large rivers and to their effective and sustainable management, involving both scientists and decision makers.
The 30th Conference of the Danubian Countries on Hydrological Forecasting and Hydrological Bases of Water Management centered around hydrological topics and current research needs in the Danubian region.
Image 1: Prof. Dr Helmut Habersack (BOKU) presenting DANUBE4all project
Image 2: Angelika Riegler (BOKU), Elisabeth Vlasak (BOKU), Marija Smederevac-Lalić (University of Belgrade, Institute for Multidisciplinary Research), Ellis Penning (Deltares), Allison O'Reilly (BOKU), Marlene Haimann (BOKU). Images courtesy of BOKU
DANUBE4all was represented at the conference with its own session. On Thursday the 24th, Prof. Helmut Habersack (Head of Congress Organising Group and Lead Coordinator of DANUBE4all), Dr. Ellis Penning (Deltares), Dr. Marija Smederevac-Lalić (University of Belgrade, Institute for Multidisciplinary Research), Dr. Sándor Baranya (Budapest University of Technology and Economics) and Marlene Haimann (BOKU) presented the overall aims and goals of the project, attended by over 50 participants in the audience.
Helmut placed a special focus on the necessity in projects of this nature to include all types of stakeholders and crucially, to listen to them in order to learn and engage effectively. Ellis spoke about Nature Based Solutions and the need for teamwork to achieve goals. For Marija, the connectivity and its impact on aquatic species were of specific importance, while Sándor spoke about one of the main goals of the project i.e., the restoration toolbox. Marlene elaborated on river restorations from an economic perspective, using the example of one of DANUBE4all's research site, Paradeis Insel at Donau-Auen National Park, Austria.
Further input was given by Sandra de Vries of citizen science research and consultancy, PULSAQUA, who presented the projects cooperation with water museums network and which great support this could be towards engaging the public to learn more about the Danube, the challenges it faces, and how DANUBE4all is helping towards action and measures.
DANUBE4all is the first project of its kind to involve science, engineers, society, business options, policy, and management to try to solve problems related to river connectivity, water quality, floods and droughts, among other challenges. In achieving this ambitious co-creation, learning from peers and receiving input from experts is crucial. Therefore the session included the opportunity of the audience to give input. This first outreach to the wider community was a useful way to connect with other initiatives such as the EU project MERLIN. The received input gave lots of food for thought and was discussed at a later stage by the project partners in detail.
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