How can the SUWAMA Conferences contribute to Worldwide Environmental Management?

Environment Management
In September of 2011, a group of scientists and researchers from around the world met in Istanbul, Turkey, for the 1st International Conference on Sustainable Watershed Management. The subject of this Conference was abbreviated as SuWaMa, which became the title for the event. The main goal of the meeting was to evaluate and improve on the utility of the technical tools available at the time for collecting and processing information on watershed basins. This information must be detailed, organized and accessible, so that it can serve as the basis for decision making by governments and other relevant institutions where water issues are concerned.

The word 'watershed' is mostly used in North America, meaning the drainage basin that feeds a river system. Due to gravity, water drains from the highest points of a region to the lowest points, where it accumulates to form lakes and rivers, eventually reaching the sea, the planet's lowest common water level (aside from a few isolated anomalies such as the Dead Sea). These basins are limited by the points of highest altitude (which is itself the definition used by most English-speaking cultures for the word watershed), where the water descends into one region on one side of a mountain range, or into another region on the other side of the same mountain. Another more technical term for these drainage basins is hydrographic basin. This concept of the natural divisions of the Earth's surface into hydrographic regions, as opposed to the political division into nations, states and cities, is developing gradually, and promises to become a more widely disseminated concept, at least in scientific circles.

The division of territory according to areas of water accumulation, the watershed basins, and the subsequent management of that water, is seen as being essential to the maintenance of life on the planet, especially as the international demand for water increases. The idea of sustainability means, with respect to water, to take care of this resource enough to guarantee a future for life on this planet, a future which is presently threatened by man's unlimited interventions in natural processes. As in the case of most environmental topics, urgent solutions seem to be called for, due to the increasing rate of climatic changes and global warming. Independent of the question of whether the predominant cause of these phenomena is man's interference or inevitable natural cycles, disaster seems to be impending. Many seem to think that only adequate planning will help avoid or mitigate catastrophe.

This planning has many aspects. Successful management of water includes the gathering of knowledge concerning the quantity and quality of the resource available in each region, the conflicting needs for the available water, and both predictions and provisions for attending as many needs as possible. Aspects of this management include:

- Where and how to reforest in order to condense more water from the atmosphere;
- Where are priority locations for investments in sewage treatment, with what technologies, and for what population;
- Where to implement more efficient irrigation systems, systems for reusing waste water, systems for capturing and storing more rain water, and other technologies;
- Where and how to install systems for temporarily absorbing the force of floodwaters;
- How much water to leave in a river to maintain life in its local environment;
- Where and how to use underground water, and how to preserve its quality;
- How to monitor the results of artificial interventions for recovering or preserving bodies of water, to determine if investments are paying off; - How to accumulate, organize, share and utilize scientific data concerning water;

Many university professors and other specialists want to go beyond the egoistic aspects of academic studies. Instead of using research only to gain more diplomas and further their careers, they are trying to apply the results of their studies to bettering the world. With this goal in mind, the 1st SuWaMa Conference brought together representatives from 33 different countries, with more than 80 presentations about theoretical and technological advances related to watershed basin information. Organized by the IGEM Akademia International Training Centre, the event also offered a number of training workshops to share information between researchers.

The 2nd Sustainable Watershed Conference was to be held in April of 2013, but has since been rescheduled for October of 2014. It is to be hoped that the knowledge exchanged will expand from the academic circles to the administrators who have the political and financial power to put that knowledge into practice where it is most needed. Like the clouds, water does not respect artificial boundaries, and travels where it will. And, like water itself, the problems related to watershed basins are international and intra-national. Maybe some day, the world will see more recognition given to international cooperation and knowledge applied to help resolve our water-related problems.

Written by: David Michael (Teres'polis, Brazil)

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Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )

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