International Course On River Basin Management: 2014 Course

This course has officially become a 12.5 point postgraduate course at the University of Melbourne.

Revised Aims

River basins, where human civilisation comes from, are challenged by increasing population pressures, rapid urbanization and climate change impact. A river basin is a semi-closed ecological and economic system, representing logical management units of the water cycle, throughout which all decisions and actions have interdependent ecological, social and economic implications. Thus, river basin management needs interdisciplinary knowledge. This subject aims to equip students who are interested in environment and natural resource management with a whole-of-system approach in managing a co-evolved social-ecological system-river basin. It helps students with engineering background and interest to understand how their engineering knowledge and skills contribute to a real co-evolved social-ecological system.


  • Describe river basin management as a complex system of interactions between the diversity of disciplinary knowledge.
  • Compare the historical development of large multi jurisdictional river basins from an economic, social and environmental perspective.
  • Identify links between the historical development and the management challenges facing the current generation of river basin managers.
  • Describe the actions designed to balance economic development with the ecological and social wellbeing in a river basin.
  • Critique the policy and other reforms designed to solve a range of river basin management challenges.
  • Create new solutions to particular contemporary river basin management challenges.

Revised course structure

This subject consists of one week of intensive indoor activities and one week of fieldwork in the Yellow River in China.

One week lecture (14th to 18th July) in Melbourne, co-taught by the University of Melbourne, Australia and Tsinghua University though video-conference system (C-campus).

One week lecture — 5 Themes

Monday: Water governance

Tuesday: Water policy

Wednesday: Irrigation management

Thursday: Environmental Management

Friday: Basin Planning

(Each day activity consists of three lectures, a panel discussion and a tutorial around that day’s theme.)

One-week field study (19th to 27th July) in the Yellow River. The major visits include: Campus and Lab visits at Tsinghua University, workshop at the Yellow River Conservation Committee, South-to-North water transfer project, sedimentation control experiment visits.


Assignment 1: 1500 words literature review

Assignment 2: 2500 words field report, individually

Assignment 3: 6000 words group project report.

Students from The University of Melbourne

Name of Course Student Numbers
Master of Engineering (Biomedical) 3
Master of Engineering (Civil Engineering) 21
Master of Engineering (Environmental) 10
Master of Engineering (Structural) 4
Master of Engineering (Civil with business) 1
Master of Environment 4
Master of Urban planning 2


Lecturers from Melbourne Lecturers from China
Prof John Langford, The University of Melbourne Prof Zhongjing Wang - Tsinghua University
Prof Sandford Clark, The University of Melbourne Prof Zhaoying Wang - Tsinghua University
Mr David Dole, Formerly Murray-Darling Basin Commission Prof Dajun Shen, Renmin University of China
Prof Raymond Ison, Monash University Prof Tiao J Chang, Ohio University
Mr David Lewis, Australia China Joint Research Centre on River Basin Management Prof Yang Hong, The University of Oklahoma
Mr Will Fargher, Aither Consulting Prof Dawen Yang
Mr Daniel Irwin, Goulburn-Murray Water  
Mr Vincent Pettingrove, CAPIM, The University of Melbourne  
Dr Gavin Rees, M-DFRC  
Dr Dominic Skinner, The University of Melbourne  
Emeritus Prof Barry Hart, Monash University  


The international course was financially supported through the Australia China Centre on River Basin Management (led by the University of Melbourne) and by Tsinghua University. Tsinghua University and the University of Melbourne also made significant in-kind contributions to this course by providing the major lectures, lecture rooms and other facilities. Aither Consulting, Monash University, Goulburn-Murray Water, Murray-Darling Basin Authority, EPA Victoria and Rubicon Water contributed to the course by providing lectures, field visits or factory visits.

Conclusion and Recommendation

It is expected that built on this regular postgraduate student subject, that students from a university in the USA (possibly Harvard) also joint the course in 2015 and this course can be open to water managers, water engineers and water officers in both Australia and China on request or irregularly.

Group visit to China in 2014