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Emerging Water Professionals Program

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The Emerging Water Professionals Program (EWPP) fosters education and innovation in water management by supporting the professional and personal development of future water leaders.

Launched by the IRF in 2015, the EWPP is open to anyone who identifies as an emerging water professional, including postgraduate students and early career professionals. Participants from any related discipline are welcome, including science, policy, planning, community development, business, governance, aid, development and many more. In 2015, the EWPP was sponsored by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and attracted 61 participants from more than 16 countries.

The 2015 EWPP was held at the 18th International Riversymposium(Brisbane, Australia), but generated such momentum that it has now become an ongoing IRF program, comprised of year-round activities and culminating at each year’s Riversymposium. The 2016 International Riversymposium will be held in New Delhi, India from 12 – 14 September.


What do EWPP participants gain?


  1. Access to a cross-generational learning and development platform via the International Riversymposium
  2. Advanced leadership, problem-solving and interpersonal skills
  3. Opportunities to build international peer relationships among emerging water leaders and explore ways to support each other through their careers
  4. Awareness of international perspectives and cross-cultural understanding
  5. Exposure to a global community of practice of people seeking environmental, economic and development outcomes in an integrated and sustainable way
  6. Networking opportunities with key high profile individuals from across all spheres of river and water management
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Enter the 2016 Emerging River Professional Award!

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The Emerging River Professional Award (ERPA) is an initiative of the IRF, established to recognise and foster early career river professionals who have demonstrated innovation, excellence and leadership in the areas of rivers, basins, or river-dependent communities The ERPA is generously sponsored by OceanaGold Corporation and the process is managed by the International WaterCentre Alumni Network (IWCAN). 


We are now calling for entries for the 2016 ERPA. ERPA finalists will be afforded the opportunity to attend the 19th International Riversymposium to be held in New Delhi, India from the 12th to 14th of September 2016, and present the outcomes of their work.The winner will be announced at the Riverprize Gala Dinner on Tuesday 13 September, and willl receiive a cash prize of AU$500. If you feel that you have undertaken noteworthy work in this area, or you know someone who deserves recognition for his or her achievement you can download the call for entries and application form here.


In 2015, the ERPA was awarded to Tom Scarborough, Estuary Planning Coordinator for the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority in Victoria, Australia. Tom won the award for successfully improving community awareness and understanding about the causes of acid discharges and fish deaths in the Anglesea River and estuary in south-west Victoria.





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Spring into Action: winning proposals announced

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A few months ago, we launched the 'Spring into Action' initiative as part of our Emerging Water Professionals Program (EWPP) to support early-career professionals and future water leaders. We called for case studies outlining a challenge or issue an organisation may be facing in managing rivers and water resources, and EWPs from around the world collaborated on some incredible proposals for an action-oriented program to solve these challenges. We've now chosen two of these proposals for implementation. Congratulations to the teams behind these projects!



Project #1 – Inspiring Change: Raising awareness in the Drin River basin


Since the fall of communism in 1992, Albania has been under significant pressure to quickly improve living standards, often at the expense of sustainable environmental practices. Both water quality and habitat have been negatively impacted by hydropower, mine drainage, poorly treated municipal wastewater, and agricultural runoff. The pollution and poor water quality of the river threatens the ecosystem and impacts the people living along the river. In particular, flooding, improper waste disposal, chemical runoff, and overfishing have reduced the water quality and biodiversity of the Drin River.


A group of Emerging Water Professionals (EWPs) from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro will join forces with the Water Supply and Sewerage Association of Albania (SHUKALB) and a group of students from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts to raise awareness about the plight of the Drin River, as research has shown that many communities along the river do not believe there is a pollution issue.


The EWPs will produce a documentary, filmed as they float down a stretch of the Drin River and conduct interviews with locals throughout their journey. The documentary will capture the importance of the role of the river and its natural beauty, and inspire people to protect the Drin river by working together to reduce the sources of pollution.


Project Team: Arbana Kola, Arlinda Ibrahimllari, Olta Ceca, Elisabeta Poci, Fjordi Bisha, Erlinda Xhebexhia, Anida Zeqirllari, Xhesika Lengu, Sagita Guce, Sejla Kokojka.



Project #2 – Building community resilience in the Mara River basin


Demands on Kenya’s Mara River are growing. The population of the river basin continues to increase, which has led to a 55% increase in agricultural lands since 1996. This land conversion has come at the expense of the basin’s grasslands and forests. Water abstractions for irrigation, industry and livestock needs are on the rise, and the flow and quality of water has started to diminish over the years, creating challenges for local livelihoods, endemic wildlife, and for maintaining biodiversity and healthy ecosystem functioning. Water scarcity is also leading to resource conflicts between communities and poor land use choices have led to reduced land productivity and high incidence of water borne diseases, particularly during the dry seasons.  


A group of Emerging Water Professionals in the region will work closely with the Mara River Water Users Association and Rhodes University to build community resilience through linking local action to basin planning.


An initial analysis will identify specific geographic areas of concern in the region, and proposed activities include upgrading the existing weather station to inform better decision making, establishing ‘model farms’ within the catchment and training local farmers on best practice strategies, exploring and introducing options for alternative livelihoods to reduce the pressure on the river, and linking upper and lower basin communities together to improve relations for the long-terms sustainability of the basin.


Project team: Dymphina Andima, Kennedy Onyango, Robert Kirui, Leonard Samoei, Joseph Haraka, Moses Kiprotich.

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NEW! Mentoring program for emerging water professionals

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Are you interested in taking part in our new EWPP mentoring program?


We are currently looking for potential mentors and mentees to take part in this new initiative, aimed at benefiting both emerged and emerging water professionals from around the world.


Our mentoring program is designed to empower future leaders to challenge traditional boundaries, grow, and learn and discover their strengths. Mentors receive the chance to empower others and help transfer important skills and knowledge across generational and geographic boundaries.


To qualify as an eligible mentee, you must be/have been:

  •  A participant from the EWPP at the 18th International Riversymposium (Brisbane, Australia), OR
  • An emerging water professional who attended the 2016 European River Symposium (Vienna, Austria), OR
  • A previous IRF Emerging River Professional Award (ERPA) winner or finalist, OR
  • An IRF Ken Thiess Scholar or alumni, OR
  • A current Australian awardee or an Australian awardee alumni member, OR
  • An emerging professionals with strong interest in river management and restoration with no more than 10 years working experience 

Click here for more information on the benefits of the program, and the role you may be able to play.  Please ensure you read this documentation thoroughly before applying to take part in the program.


Apply to participate as a mentee  |  Apply to participate as a mentor.


Applications for the program will close on 30 April.

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Get involved

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Become an Emerging Water Professional


If you’re interested in unlocking a range of opportunities as a future water leader, we’d love to help you develop your skills, networks and expertise. To become an International RiverFoundation
Emerging Water Professional, contact Vanh Mixap at vanh@riverfoundation.org.au.


Sponsor the EWPP


The IRF is currently looking for EWPP sponsors and partners to help realise our goal to make EWPP an
ongoing program. If you are interested in partnering with the International RiverFoundation, please contact Patricia Dalby at patricia@riverfoundation.org.au.

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