Getting the big picture in water management

21 July 2015

Engineer Mahala McLindin at LulworthMahala McLindin is the 2013 Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Scholar in Engineering. She spent 2014 at the University of Oxford undertaking a masters in Water Science, Policy and Management. She will present her dissertation in Brisbane at the International Rivers Symposium in September this year.

Climate change, industrial and agricultural development, and the need to feed an ever-growing population are just a few factors that make managing the world’s water supplies so important.

Unfortunately many of the policies in place, especially in developing countries, are hard to implement due to conflicting interests and a lack of resources to monitor and police river usage.

Using the Burguret River Basin in Kenya as a model, Australian Engineer Mahala McLindin has spent the past year doing her masters at the University of Oxford working out how to create water managemeMagnificent scenery from a river field trip from the Pyrenees to Barcelona.nt policies that are easy to implement while taking into account social equity and environmental protection.

“Often developing countries don’t have data on the river history, or the ability to monitor the river effectively to understand how the water supply is changing. I’m trying to develop policies based on minimal data that’s easy to collect and takes into account the big picture.”

Mahala chose the Burguret River Basin because it’s one of the few systems where a lot of basic data has been gathered from mobile phone applications which can be used to understand the river’s flow. The Burguret River Basin also provides a unique opportunity in that aspects of Mahala’s research can be used to better manage the available water resources.

“It’s a great example of where the water isn‘t getting used effectively. Up river people are using it for sustenance farming on low-value crops while at the basin there’s a big wildlife sanctuary which generates a lot of wealth through tourism but it’s not getting enough water.”
Mahala hopes that the model she developed based on minimal data in Kenya can be used to inform policy on some of the world’s other major river systems.

While Mahala enjoyed her time in the UK, she has recently returned to Australia where she hopes to continue working on water resource management in the Australian context and on water resource planning and development in the Asia-Pacific region.

“I’m not one of the technical engineers, I’ve always enjoyed looking at things on the bigger picture and discovering how they interrelate.”

She aims to continue looking at the big picture and contribute to Australia’s reputation as a leader in water management.