CDU researcher targets essential water supply issues in Indonesia 

Sarah Hobgen helps locals plants trees around a spring to protect their drinking water source in Maidang village

A Charles Darwin University postgraduate student Sarah Hobgen has received a scholarship to continue her work in Indonesia to help solve water supply issues drastically affecting irrigation to crops.

The Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering Postgraduate Top-up Scholarship will allow her to continue work on a four-year project building on work conducted by CDU Adjunct Professor Bob Wasson in 2010.

Ms Hobgen said that maintenance of water supplies was an increasing challenge with sedimentation of reservoirs, population growth and climate change.

“The Kambaniru Weir on the island of Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara Province is filling with sediment, drastically reducing the water holding capacity of the largest weir in East Sumba, which supplies essential irrigation water to 1440ha of rice fields,” Ms Hobgen said.
“We hope to find the relative contribution of topsoil and subsoil to sediment accumulating in the weir.

“This will tell us about the kinds of erosion that are most important and combined with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing techniques we can determine sediment sources and make recommendations for the location and nature of erosion control interventions.”

Ms Hobgen’s scholarship will provide her with the resources to use radionuclide tracing to understanding sedimentation and underlying erosion processes currently unavailable due to limited data, resources and time.

“Radionuclide tracers can provide rapid and inexpensive assessments of the relative contribution of topsoil and subsoil to sedimentation,” she said.

“I will then use relatively simple, cheap GIS methods to create maps of erosion hotspots that can be used for catchment management planning, and assist to target erosion control and reafforestation projects to high impact locations.”

This is a collaborative project with long-term CDU partners Universitas Nusa Cendana (Undana), local NGOs and government departments in Sumba and researchers at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation. It builds on experience from the extensive research being undertaken by CDU researchers in the Daly River Catchment of the Northern Territory.