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Australia gifts eWater Source to Cambodia

In a special ceremony in Phnom Penh, Australia’s Ambassador to Cambodia, His Excellency Pablo Kang formally gifted access to Australia’s national water modelling platform, eWater Source to Cambodia’s Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology (MOWRAM) His Excellency Lim Kean Hor. 

This technical exchange forms part of Australia’s ongoing support for sustainable water management throughout the Mekong region.

eWater Source, Australia’s national hydrological modelling platform will assist the Cambodian Government to better understand the availability of water resources throughout the country. It will provide a stronger evidence base on which to make decisions about the development of water infrastructure and the allocation of water for a range of users – cities and towns, farming and freshwater fisheries, hydropower and industry.

“The sustainable management of Cambodia’s precious water resources is crucial to support the socio-economic development of our cities and of our growing agriculture and energy sectors, while preserving our unique environment” stated His Excellency Lim Kean Hor.

“We welcome the offer by the Government of Australia to provide both technical tools and capacity building support so that Cambodians can learn from the Australian experience and improve our management of water resources for the entire country.”

In response, Ambassador Kang said “We are pleased to share an important Australian innovation – the eWater Source platform –with our neighbours and friends in Cambodia, because doing so will help ensure water governance is based on solid evidence and can contribute to Cambodia’s post-COVID recovery”

eWater has worked with the Mekong River Commission (MRC) its member countries (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam) for many years. Starting in 2013, eWater developed a Source model of the entire Mekong River and major tributaries, ultimately leading to eWater contributing to the 2018-19 MRC Council Study using Source to integrate information and existing basin models.  

In 2017-19, eWater, in partnership with UNESCAP, Geoscience Australia and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology implemented a pilot in Cambodia using space-based data to help water users in drought prone countries to better understand and manage droughts.  eWater provided updated technology and access to satellite data through the Geoscience Australia Open Data Cube to improve the ESCAP Regional Drought Mechanism.  In 2019 eWater was appointed as an adviser to MOWRAM in Cambodia under a World Bank project.  




Understanding the water resources of the Ayeyarwady Basin, Myanmar

The Ayeyarwady River is Myanmar’s largest and most commercially important river but its water resources are not well understood.

With the support of the Australian Water Partnership, the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar commissioned the first integrated assessment of the natural resources of the Ayeyarwady Basin. eWater lead the surface water assessment for the State of the Basin Assessment (SOBA).

The Ayeyarwady Basin

With an area of just over 675 000 km2, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar is the second largest country in South-East Asia, after Indonesia. 

The Ayeyarwady River starts in the Himalayas, flowing for approximately 2 000 km in a north-south direction through Central Myanmar. The river basin has a total area of 413,700 km2 and covers about 61% of Myanmar. About 5% of the Basin extends into the neighbouring countries of India (to the west) and China (to the east). 

The Ayeyarwady River Basin is dominated by a monsoonal rainfall regime, associated with the south-western Indian monsoon. It is also affected by convectional systems and cyclones from the Bay of Bengal. Groundwater flows to the streams and snowmelt from the northern regions are also important contributions to basin flows.  

The Ayeyarwady River Basin is still a relatively undeveloped basin. Like the majority of Myanmar, most of the Basin is characterized as rural, with agriculture the main use of water. 

Ayeyarwady River, view from Bupaya bagan (credit: tuanjai62/ Adobe Stock)

Project overview

The SOBA provides a baseline assessment of the basin’s water and other natural resources, from which future management options can be compared against.

eWater developed a preliminary baseline Source water system model for the Ayeyarwady Basin (north of the delta), from which a baseline assessment of the basin’s surface water resources was undertaken.

The model is run with historic climate data for 1982 to 2016, land use in 2014 and storage capacity in 2016. It represents agriculture, domestic, urban and hydropower water use.

For the first time, the baseline assessment gives water managers a description of the hydrology of the Ayeyarwady River Basin according to 5 Hydro-Ecological Zones and 13 sub-basins, significantly increasing the understanding of both water availability and water use in the basin. For example, in the figure below, we can see the different components that contribute to flow at the end of the system as an annual total and during the critical dry season, it shows how much water is provided by different sources and how much of this water is used or lost to evaporation.

Flow components at the end of the Ayeyarwady Basin, annually and in the dry season

The water system model is a first cut at drawing together the information required to adequately understand and simulate the complexities of the Ayeyarwady River Basin. The baseline model will be a key tool to support the future management of the basin’s water resources, making it possible to:   

  • Combine outputs from the model together with observed values, to provide an overall assessment of water availability and uses across the Ayeyarwady River Basin.  
  • Understand baseline water availability and use, to support the ongoing assessment of the Basin’s water resources and to examine possible future scenarios and possible implications, for example with climate change or increased agricultural use. 
  • Simulate components of the hydrological cycle at locations where observed values are not available. 
  • Identify information gaps and inform future data collection initiatives. 

Scoping Study

Following the completion of the SOBA, eWater was engaged to undertake a scoping study of potential development options for the mainstream of the Ayeyarwady River and tributary flows. The study was also supported by the Australian Water Partnership.

The scoping study sought to demonstrate how water resource models can be used to assess management scenarios and provide valuable outputs to support stakeholder consultation.

The surface water system model was adapted to allow it to provide information on the likely changes in the Ayeyarwady mainstream and tributaries from different development scenarios. The scoping model can assess the likely flow changes from different development options, to consider the impact on water dependent outcomes such as irrigation, hydropower production, surface water flow heights and and flood magnitude. It is not intended to evaluate specific development proposals.

The scoping model was used to compare a High Development Scenario of hydropower on the tributaries and some irrigation development in the Central Dry Zone against a baseline scenario. The baseline scenario included ‘current’ irrigation demand and hydropower dams representing 2000 megawatts of hydropower, it does not include some 30 irrigation storages where data was not available.

The results compared include:

  • Change in hydropower generation on an annual and seasonal basis, inter-annual variability was also assessed. 
  • Agriculture water use and availability assessed on an annual and inter-annual basis. 
  • An assessment of changes to hydrographs at Sagaing, Pyay and Monywa, including changes in flow volume as well as surface water level.

An example of the scoping model outputs is shown below. In this, dry season irrigation extraction under the baseline and high development scenarios are compared.

Dry season demand for water under the baseline and high development scenarios.

Capacity Building

eWater conducted face to face training programs to introduce water managers in Myanmar to the principles of hydrological modelling and the use of Source. The training used the new Ayeyarwady Source model, providing participants with hands-on experience in the use of the model.

eWater’s Geoff Davis presenting Source training in Myanmar



Supporting Queensland’s next generation of water modellers

The Queensland Water Modelling Network (QWMN) aims to improve the state’s capacity to model its surface water and groundwater resources and improve the quality of it’s models. 

Established by the Queensland Government in 2017, the QWMN provides tools, information and collaborative platforms to support best-practice use of water models and the uptake of their results by policy makers and natural resource managers. The QWMN encourages engagement between modellers, researchers, policy makers and resource managers.

A key focus of the QWMN is building Queensland water sector capability through its mentoring program. The program partners experienced modellers with university undergraduate students and young water professionals interested in water modelling, it The aims to:

  • Grow the size and capabilities of the Queensland water modelling workforce by building a pipeline of skilled and enthusiastic graduates who want to pursue water modelling careers in Queensland.
  • Expose students to ‘real world’ water policy issues so that they develop applied knowledge and become enthused about the work of water modellers.
  • Develop undergraduate student critical analysis and systemic understanding of how the outputs from water models are and can be used.

The program has two components. Firstly, students undertake online water model training and tutorials to become familiar with the relevant models and tools. Students then undertake a ‘real world’ modelling challenge, supported by mentors who are experienced Queensland Government modellers.  

eWater is an active supporter of the mentoring program, providing access to the full version of Source, training materials and technical support for participants.

Phase 1 of the program has been successfully completed by students from Griffith University, James Cook University, University of South Queensland, Queensland University of Technology and University of Queensland and a young professional within the Queensland Department of Natural Resources Mines and Energy (DNRME).

Students used eWater Source to understand how water quality targets are set for the Great Barrier Reef catchments. The Cattle Creek sub catchment within the Mackay/Whitsunday region used in the challenge. Through the project, participants both learn how to use Australia’s National Hydrological Modelling Platform, eWater Source and are exposed the the challenges faced by both government and industry to meet the Great Barrier Reef water quality targets.

The program has since been extended to students at the universities of Central Queensland and the Sunshine Coast in 2020-21. The QWMN is also working to engage modelling experts from the private sector.

More about the QWMN

More about eWater Source and managing the Great Barrier Reef




Customising Source to manage blackwater risks

Construction of dams, weirs and use of water for irrigation, industry and towns has meant that many aquatic and floodplain ecosystems don’t get the water they did naturally.

One way of addressing this is to construct infrastructure, such as regulators and embankments that allow water managers to simulate natural watering regimes with lower flows.

While inundation brings a range of ecological benefits, it also has the potential to cause hypoxic blackwater (low dissolved oxygen) events. Blackwater events occur when inundation washes organic material from the floodplains into waterways leading to a rise in dissolved organic carbon in the water. This causes the water to turn a dark colour. The increased bacterial activity breaking down the carbon consumes oxygen, which causes a drop in levels of dissolved oxygen. In some circumstances, levels can drop so much that fish and other aquatic organisms do not have enough oxygen and die.

Blackwater can also create challenges for downstream water use, such as increasing treatment costs for drinking water supplies.

Blackwater events are a natural feature of many river systems. However, when natural flood patterns are changed and there are longer periods between overbank flows, the amount of organic material can be substantially increased, exacerbating the risk.

Changes to the natural inundation patterns of floodplains can increase the risk of blackwater events.

The project

As part of the South Australian Riverland Floodplain Integrated Infrastructure Program (SARFIIP), the South Australian and Commonwealth governments have invested in major infrastructure upgrades to provide water to the Pike and Katarapko floodplains. The infrastructure allows the Department for the Environment and Water (DEW) to create higher water levels to inundate the wetlands, improving watering frequency and the ecological health of the floodplains.The project includes a number of initiatives to manage potential blackwater risks. This has included developing a model to help understand and predict dissolved oxygen responses to different inundation events, giving DEW important information to design watering events with reduced risk of blackwater events occurring.

Spreadsheet models were previously used to help understand blackwater risks (Howitt et al. 2007, Whitworth and Baldwin 2016, known as the Blackwater Risk Assessment Tool – BRAT). While effective for non-complex situations, DEW was unable to represent realistic hydrology, such as events where water flowed into and out of different floodplains along the river. A more sophisticated approach was required. DEW determined the best approach to be to develop a Source plugin to model blackwater processes on the floodplains.

DEW and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority use the Source modelling framework to help manage the River Murray System. The Source framework uses “plugins” as a flexible way to build additional modelling capability into model. Combined with the South Australian Source Murray Model, the new Blackwater plugin allows DEW to model interactions between the river and floodplains and the different processes that contribute to the risk of blackwater events.

The approach

Conceptually, the model is based on the original spreadsheet models and represents the key influences on the generation of blackwater events (from SMEC 2015):

  • time period since the last inundation
  • the duration and rate of inundation
  • water exchange during inundation
  • temperature
  • area of inundation
  • litter loading
  • depth of inundation
  • influence of floodplain creeks on dilution
  • river dilution flows and proximity to environmental values

In addition, the model includes location specific information such as elevation, floodplain area and litter accumulation (from vegetation type), to understand the extent of inundation and litter accumulation.

The blackwater plugin is set up to represent all of the River Murray in South Australia, to consider interactions between the river and floodplains, as well as cumulative effects from multiple operations being inundated at the same time.

Conceptual model of the processes represented in the Source Blackwater plugin
Conceptual model of the processes represented in the Source Blackwater plugin

Model performance

Model performance was tested in two ways. Firstly, simple floodplain scenarios were run through the Blackwater Risk Assessment Tool (BRAT) and the plugin. The results were comparable.

Secondly, a natural high flow event that inundated the Pike Floodplain in late 2016/early 2017 provided an opportunity to compare the model performance against observed DO data. The model compared well with the measured DO trends and magnitude but further testing under a wider range of scenarios is required to fully test the model. Notably, the event shows the importance of interactions with the river during blackwater events, as the majority of the DO decrease on the floodplain during Oct-Nov 2016 appears to relate to the low DO in the inflow water.

Modelled versus measured (at station A4260644, Pike River at Lettons downstream Rumpagunya Creek) dissolved Oxygen levels during the 2016-17 inundation event
Modelled versus measures (Station A42602644, Pike River at Lettons downstream Rumpagunyah Creek) Dissolved Oxygen levels on the Pike Floodplain during the 2016-17 inundation event.

Implementation

The model supports DEW to:

  • understand the potential DO changes associated with different environmental watering actions on the floodplains
  • adjust proposed watering actions to reduce the risk of blackwater events
  • forecast potential DO changes and blackwater risks from floods, and to identify potential river operations to minimise forecast blackwater events.

The figures below are two examples of the blackwater plugins outputs. The first shows the range of floodplain inundation under five different scenarios. The second shows forecast dissolved oxygen levels for each of the scenarios.

Hypothetical scenarios of water level upstream of environmental regulators to create floodplain inundation

Scenario A represents a fast fill of the floodplain to full inundation extent, potentially resulting in DO concentrations that could be detrimental to aquatic biota. Through the use of the DODOC plugin, operations can be designed to reduce these impacts.

Project partners

This work forms part of the $155 million South Australian Riverland Floodplains Integrated Infrastructure Program (SARFIIP) to improve the health and resilience of Riverland floodplains. SARFIIP is funded by the Australian Government through the Murray–Darling Basin Authority and implemented by DEW in partnership with SA Water.

The Blackwater Plugin was developed for DEW by the University of Adelaide and Flow Matters Pty Ltd. eWater was engaged by DEW to further develop functionality and modify the plugin to better work with improvements made to the Source platform after the plugin was developed.

References

Howitt JA, Baldwin DS, Rees GN and Williams JL (2007). Modelling blackwater: predicting water quality during flooding of lowland river forests. Ecological Modelling 203 (3–4):229–242. doi:10.1016/j.ecolmodel.20

SMEC (2015). SARFIIP Blackwater Risk Assessment: Stage 1. Report to the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. SMEC, Adelaide in association with Natural Logic (Karla Billington) and University of Adelaide (Luke Mosley)

Whitworth KL, Baldwin DS (2016). Improving our capacity to manage hypoxic blackwater in lowland rivers: the Blackwater Risk Assessment Tool. Ecological Modelling 320, 292–298. 06.11.017

Acknowledgements

This case study was prepared in collaboration with the SA Department for Environment and Water and Murray-Darling Basin Authority.




Using Source for water and catchment management in the Australian Capital Territory

Source models support strategic planning, policy development, catchment and water resource management in the Australian Capital Territory

The models underpin the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Water Strategy 2014-44 – Striking the Balance and support the ACT Government to meet its obligations under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan 2012.

Together with eWater, the ACT Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (the Directorate) have embarked on a series of initiatives to upgrade the ACT’s Source models.

Improving water quality through wetlands like this is one in the Canberra suburb of Bonner is a central part of the ACT Water Strategy
(credit: Danswell Starrs, ACT Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate)

Audit of water models

The Directorate use several different Source models to inform strategic planning and decision-making regarding land use planning, urban development and climate change on water quantity and quality and the operation and maintenance of water infrastructure.

eWater was engaged to audit the Directorate’s existing Source models to ensure they were fit-for-purpose and could address emerging needs, including the ability to:

  • explore different policy, planning and management actions and assess potential impacts on the natural environment and water resources
  • predict impacts of land development decisions on water resources and assess mitigate measures 
  • test new ways of operating water infrastructure 
  • predict future environmental states to inform policy and management decisions, such as environmental condition and future water supply/catchment yields.

The audit identified several issues with the existing models that limited their ability to meet the current and future needs of the ACT Government. eWater recommended a substantial rebuild of the models, including:

  • Consolidating the existing nine models.
  • Utilising human-readable input sets and data sets to run scenarios, rather than individual models.  
  • Reconfiguring storages and lakes in the catchment model to better represent how they operate.  
  • Reconceptualising and recalibrating the rainfall-runoff models. 
  • Incorporating the ACT water supply system. 
  • Establishing a current conditions baseline case for scenario assessment. 
  • Preparing and justifying a baseline scenario for the comparison of land use change scenarios. 

Model rebuild

Following on from the audit, eWater was engaged to rebuild the ACT’s catchment and planning models.

eWater built two new Source models for the ACT, a catchment and a planning model.  Model performance has been improved by reducing the number of sub-catchments outside of the ACT. The new models use LASCAM (Large-Scale Catchment Model) rainfall-runoff models, allowing for physically based assessments of hydrological impacts of land use change. The catchment model now incorporates Canberra’s water supply system, including storages. The consolidation of the models allows for different policy and management options to be implemented by Scenario Input Sets.

In addition to the model re-build, the project also included collaborating with the ACT Office of the Chief Digital Officer to the integrate Source models with the ACT Government Water Data Management System. This brings two main benefits, it streamlines the transfer of data and model outputs and adds dashboarding capabilities to improve the presentation of model outputs. Integrations was achieved through a customised plug-in, developed by the eWater Software Development Team.

eWater also provided customised training to Directorate staff, to ensure they understood the Source model and were able to support its future development and application.

The updated models will support the ACT Government to better manage urban stormwater and flooding risks
(credit: Danswell Starrs, ACT Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate)

Implementation

The Directorate is using the models to inform a wide range of water and catchment management activities, including to:

  • support investment in catchment remediation and
    investment, by helping identify which areas will lead to the greatest
    improvements in water quality and/or water yield
  • investigate Integrated Catchment Management
    options across the ACT and the greater region
  • understand stormwater and flooding risks in
    urban areas
  • forecast future water supply and demand
    scenarios
  • compare likely outcomes from different water
    efficiency initiatives
  • investigate alternative water supply options,
    such as treated effluent, grey water and stormwater for consumptive and
    non-consumptive uses
  • test different options to improve the management
    of rivers and lakes, to promote recreational use and reduce risks to public
    health.

Acknowledgements

This case study was prepared in collaboration with the ACT Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate.




River Basin Models and Water Sharing Policy in the upper Godavari Sub-Basin, Maharashtra, India

Resolving tension between farmers upstream and downstream over water allocations in the upper Godavari River in Maharashtra was the focus of a four year engagement in the west Indian State by eWater.

The Maharashtra and New South Wales governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation across a wide range of issues.  Under the provisions of this MOU, the Government of Maharashtra in partnership with the NSW Department of Industry, Lands and Water (then) engaged eWater to provide training, technology transfer, and ongoing support in the use of Australian river modelling technology to Maharashtra.

eWater assisted the Maharashtra Department of Water Resources to develop a modelling framework to test water management options and to support the development of an integrated water resources management (IWRM) plan for the Upper Godavari sub-basin.

Basin overview

The Godavari River basin is India’s second largest river basin, it covers 50% of the land area of Maharashtra state.  It is a complex system, with 20 dams. Water use includes irrigated crops, industry and domestic use in urban and rural areas, including drinking water.  Water availability and equitable distribution of water within the sub-basin are major public concerns that have resulted in legal challenges.

Within the sub-basin there is significant spatial and inter-annual variability in monsoon rainfall. Typically, runoff is generated in the high-rainfall, high-elevation areas of the sub-basin with little runoff generation in the area near the large Paithan irrigation dam at the outlet of the Upper Godavari. 

Paithan Dam, after upstream monsoon rains.

Project outcomes

The project had two primary outputs, a calibrated Source model for the Upper Godavari Sub-Basin and building the capacity of the Maharashtra Department of Water Resources.

eWater, in collaboration with modellers from the Maharashtra Department of Water Resources set-up and calibrated a Source model for the Upper Godavari sub-basin. The model was used to evaluate water management options to improve equitable access to water across the sub-basin. Model outputs were used to inform the integrated water resource management plan

eWater and the NSW Department of Industry, Lands and Water used outputs from the river basin models to establish and focus communication and discussion with the Maharashtra Water Resources Department about improved water management policies and governance processes to implement the objectives of the Maharashtra State Water Policy. With a key focus being improving targeted communications to farmers in the basin.

eWater delivered a comprehensive training program in the use of Source, with customised training based on the Upper Godavari model. Training was held in India and Australia, both involved a combination of hands-on desktop learning and field visits to better understand the linkages between models and on-ground water management. 

More broadly, the project brought together water managers, academics and researchers in the Upper Godavari sub-basin to establish a community of practice that allows lessons and experiences to be shared across other sub-basins in Maharashtra.

Delegates learning about modern irrigation technology in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Award winning project

The success of the project was recognized at India Water Week 2019, when the national Minister for Jal Shakti (Water Resources) presented an award to the Maharashtra Water Resources Department (WRD) for using eWater Source modelling framework to achieve equitable distribution of water in the Upper Godavari Sub-basin.

Left to right: Mr Arun Ghate (IWRM team GMIDC), Mr Jasing Hire (IWRM team GMIDC), Mr Ajay Kohirkar (Executive Director GMIDC), Mr Dilip Tawar (Chief Engineer GMIDC), Mr Rajendra Pawar (Secretary Command Area Development, WRD), Ms. Sonali Nagargoje (IWRM team GMIDC), Mr. Avirat Chavan (IWRM team GMIDC)



Using Australian water tools to develop new drought metrics for Cambodia

eWater, Geoscience Australia (GA) and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) collaborated to pilot using space-based data to forecast streamflows and water availability.

With the support of the Australian Water Partnership, eWater, GA and the BOM worked with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for the Asia Pacific (UNESCAP) to develop new metric’s for the their ‘Regional Cooperative Mechanism for Drought Monitoring and Early Warning in Asia and the Pacific’ (the Regional Drought Mechanism)

The project integrated three leading Australian tools for water management:

  • Australia’s National Hydrology Modelling Platform – eWater Source
  • GA’s Open Data Cube for accessing and managing space-based data
  • the BOM’s streamflow forecasting tools

The pilot project integrated the three tools, to develop streamflow and water availability forecasts from space-based data. Traditionally, such information requires significant on-ground data and complex analysis tools. The pilot highlights the potential of the integrated suite of tools to significantly increase the information available to water and agricultural managers and farmers to anticipate and plan for drought conditions.

Further, the use of Open Data Cube technology enabled many Source model inputs to be generated automatically, reducing the time to build the model, potentially making modelling more accessible to water managers.

The information was made available in a relatively simple format and accessed through mobile technology via https://escap.ewater.org.au/

Read more

As this image shows, water levels in Cambodia are highlighly variable. Metrics such as those produced in the pilot provide more information to help Cambodian water managers and users adapt. (credit: simoscalise/ Adobe Stock)