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Summer Water Workshop in Conflict Transformation, Climate Resilience, International Law, and Applied Techniques

Because there is rarely enough good quality water and natural resources to meet the needs of everyone, everywhere, managing these vital resources often means managing conflict. OSU’s Summer Workshop in Water & Natural Resources is designed to enhance your understanding and build your skills to tackle the vital environmental challenges of our times.

Our water and natural resource sessions revolve around these interconnected themes:

  • Natural resources and climate adaptation
  • Transforming water conflicts
  • International environmental and water law
  • Field skills needed to understand water resources in practice

Each highly interactive session is designed to demonstrate an understanding of the complexities of these challenges, and to bolster capacity to address them. You may elect to take one or two sessions total.

Program Design

Providing these concentrated offerings collectively and onsite, we hope to promote an atmosphere of commonality and community to help build towards a sustainable, equitable, and peaceful future.

This program is designed for:

  • State or federal agencies
  • NGOs
  • Advocacy groups
  • Development partners or development banks
  • Professionals and graduate students in any water-related field

All sessions will be held on the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis, Oregon, with supplemental online coursework.

Session Options

You may select one or two sessions total, as weekly sessions are offered concurrently.

Water Conflict Management & Transformation

Week 1: June 17 – 21 from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

How can we move debates about water resource issues beyond entrenched positions? What are some less confrontational approaches that bring conflicting interests and institutions together to craft workable solutions; ones that build community rather than disrupt it? Can we find solutions that work across different scales of both time and space? What are some ways we ourselves can work more peacefully within contentious situations?

Experience suggests that 21st Century water demands and associated issues will challenge us to seek new strategies. The complexity we face calls for approaches that foster sustained, long-term stewardship which connects people with the environment as well as with their communities.

“Water Conflict Management” offers an opportunity for water resources professionals and graduate students to learn about current and leading-edge ways to work effectively in contentious water situations. It explores conflict tolerance, prevention, management, and transformation through collaborative structures as well as through models of negotiation and dialogue.

This week-long session emphasizes experiential learning. We offer a place to learn and practice new skills that are applicable from the individual level to the societal level and across a range of real-life situations. Additionally, the workshop helps students understand just how creative, messy and inelegant workable solutions are likely to be.

Instructors: Lynette de Silva & Aaron Wolf

Managing Natural Resources for Climate Adaptation

Week 1: June 17 – 21 from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

The session will take a positive, solutions-oriented approach to climate adaptation and resilience, showcasing resilience as a process of reorganization and learning based on an emerging set of evidences, cases, and methodologies that have developed over the past decade.

Climate change is a profoundly disruptive force for both humans and natural systems. For our species, the most important impact from climate change may come from how uncertainty about the future challenges our decision-making processes. How can we design institutions, governance arrangements, or infrastructure if we don’t know with confidence if we will face wetter or drier conditions? From this perspective, sustainability differs profoundly from resilience, and the implications of this shift are just beginning to enter our decisions.

Water has been widely described as the “teeth” of climate change and the medium of most of the negative impacts for our species. Here, we will explore several technical and policy risk assessment and reduction tools that place water at their center and that manage uncertainty and change in ecosystems and natural resources. We will also discuss how water is an organizing principle to reduce climate risks and reorient towards resilience.

Given the major impacts that are now emerging, we will talk about resilience as a way to engage in choosing and guiding stakeholders, communities, economies, and ecosystems through climatic, ecological, and hydrological transitions. Climate and water policies at local, national, and global levels are all quite relevant to our decisions. Expect active globally oriented discussion about how water-centric resilience is an essential perspective for how we manage natural resources for economic development, corporations and finance institutions, and the long-term health and integrity of ecosystems.

Instructor: John H. Matthews

International Environmental and Water Law

Week 2: June 24 – 28 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This session provides students with an overview of the principles, rules and regulations applicable to the environment and natural resources in general and transboundary water resources – rivers, lakes and aquifers – in particular. It starts out with an introduction to international law and provides a comprehensive understanding of how international rules and treaties are being made and what they mean to state actors (bindingness, compliance, violation of treaties, etc.). It then provides an overview of key international environmental instruments, especially in the fields of climate change and biodiversity, and their development over time, before turning specifically to international water law at the global and the basin level. It provides a detailed introduction to international water law principles, the two global water conventions as well as basin specific treaties and basin organizations, including their content, their functioning and their effectiveness in governing shared water resources.

Students will learn about the key principles of international water law and how they are codified in international conventions in treaties, but also how they are applied in specific basin contexts. Students will be able to analyze international water treaties, including in the context of newly emerging challenges such as climate change.

Instructor: Susanne Schmeier 
Week One (June 17 - 21)
Week Two (June 24 - 28)
Corvallis, Oregon
price (2)
$750 per session
Additional Information:
  • No prerequisites
  • This workshop registration is for non-credit seeking learners. Participants interested in obtaining university credit should contact Stephen Good.
  • Non-US citizen or permanent resident participants may contact Rachael Weber, Office of International Services with questions regarding travel visas.
  • Instructors

    Lynette de Silva

    Lynette de Silva directs the Program in Water Conflict Management and Transformation at Oregon State University (OSU), which includes: the graduate/professional certificate program; the Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database, an information technology/outreach program; and the University Partnership for Transboundary Waters, a collaborative research program. This involves contributing to issues of topical scientific and societal importance; adding to state, national, and international visibility; consolidating programmatic cores and teaching missions; and recruiting graduate students and evaluating student applications.

    de Silva teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in water resources management, and water conflict management. Her principal areas of interest include water conflict management, integrated watershed management, and the study of transboundary waters. Ms. de Silva’s research interests include gender issues in transboundary freshwater dispute resolution, particularly as it relates to the role of women.

    Dr. Aaron T. Wolf

    Aaron T. Wolf, PhD is a professor of geography at Oregon State University, USA, with an appointment as professor of water diplomacy at IHE-Delft Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands. He has acted as consultant to the US Government, the World Bank, and several international governments and development partners on various aspects of water resources and conflict management. A trained mediator/ facilitator, he directs the Program in Water Conflict Management and Transformation, through which he has offered workshops, facilitations, and mediation in basins throughout the world.

    Dr. John Matthews

    Dr. John Matthews is a resilience scientist and adaptation practitioner who has been working at the interface of water and climate globally since 2007. John co-founded the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA) in 2010 with the World Bank, where he is the Executive Director. His work explores how we define and accelerate the uptake of our emerging set of best practices for water-centric climate resilience. He has led the development of new climate risk methodologies that have been used in dozens of countries, prepared green bond criteria that have certified more than 15 billion USD in water resilience investments over six continents, and advised well over 100 countries on their national climate commitments.

    Dr. Susanne Schmeier

    Dr. Susanne Schmeier is an Associate Professor of Water Law and Diplomacy at IHE Delft – Institute for Water Education, The Netherlands. Her work focuses on legal and institutional arrangements for preventing water disputes and fostering cooperation and on the linkages between water and other fields of law and governance. She is also a courtesy faculty member in the Water Resources Policy and Management Program at Oregon State University and an affiliate at the International Water Law Academy, Wuhan, China. Prior to joining IHE Delft, she worked for the German government, coordinating Germany’s development cooperation support to transboundary water management, for the Mekong River Commission (MRC) and the World Bank, among others. She is also a moderator and facilitator of international conferences and negotiations and has been involved in negotiation and dispute-resolution processes in various basins around the world.

    Dr. María Zamora Re

    Maria is an Assistant Professor and a Water Management/Statewide Irrigation Specialist.


    Past Students' Work

    Take a look at some recent projects our students have created.